Last week’s 2-1 victory over West Ham was by no means particularly convincing, nor the manner of performance we would have expected, but it’s another three points on the board and a confidence builder after a slightly troubled beginning to the Louis van Gaal era.
The Dutchman will be forced to make changes ahead of the visit of Roberto Martinez and Everton, who United have managed just a single victory over from their previous five encounters.
Wayne Rooney misses the visit of his former club after receiving a straight red card for a kick at Stewart Downing during last weeks win. The skipper will miss further matches with West Brom at the Hawthorns and Chelsea at Old Trafford before returning this time next month for the Manchester derby.
Rooney’s absence isn’t likely to give United fans too many sleepless nights after recent below par performances. With Van Persie and Falcao occupying central striking roles, Rooney has been left to assume the number 10 role, a position which has become clear does not suit his style of play.
Mata is likely to reclaim his place as a result, with his return much more likely to cause Everton’s defence problems and provide more killer instinct going forward. The former Chelsea man was unfortunate to lose his place when the Reds travelled to Leicester, given his 9 goals in 11 appearances before then.
While United’s defence has been a little shaky as of late, they haven’t struggled to find the net during September. The side have averaged three goals a game during their last three matches, an encouraging stat given Everton’s own defensive frailties. The Toffee’s have shipped 14 goals in their six league matches this season and have dropped more points from winning positions than any other team in the Premier League.
Also sitting this one out for the Reds will be Ander Herrera after suffering a broken rib against West Ham and adding to what seems like a never ending injury list. The Spaniard’s absence is likely to have a much more significant effect than the loss of Rooney with the dynamic Herrera proving exceedingly effect in the new system given his box-to-box brand of play.
Carrick and Fellaini returned to training this week after their injuries, although Darren Fletcher is the most likely candidate to replace Herrera in the middle of the park. The vice-captain’s selection would give another leader on field and end any debate over who would take the captain’s armband in Rooney’s absence.
Valencia could be another option to replace Herrera – given that he was brought on after the injury was suffered – with he and Angel Di Maria occupying slightly wider roles. That said, Fletcher had already replaced Falcao at that point and is seemingly more likely to get the nod than the Ecuadorian.
Paddy McNair’s time in the limelight looks as though it could be short-lived despite turning in an impressive debut against West Ham. Phil Jones is likely to return to sure up the defence, or failing this, Tyler Blackett will come back into to the squad after his red card against Leicester. Luke Shaw is likely to keep his place a left-back after an impressive first start and more importantly, a much needed 90 minutes under his belt.
Despite a less than impressive start to the campaign by their standards under Roberto Martinez, Everton will come to Old Trafford with no fear and full of confidence after Jagielka’s late equalizer during last week’s Merseyside derby. They left it late again in Thursday night’s Europa League fixture with Krasnodar to claim a draw but are now without a win in four matches.
The Toffee’s attack contains Eto’o and Lukaku, two of only four players to net Premier League hat-tricks against United, although any role Eto’o plays is more likely to come from the bench.
Good news for United however will be the losses of both Kevin Mirallas and Seamus Coleman from the Everton line-up, while Ross Barkley remains a long term casualty. An early kick-off also offers to favours to the Merseysiders who will have little time to recover from a midweek trip to Russia.
Despite Fergie and Moyes both losing their first Premier League home tie with Everton, I expect this one to be a different story for Louis Van Gaal. The away side certainly have the ability to cause problems, but the return of Phil Jones will be a huge boost to United and his return to partner Rojo should give Old Trafford their first glimpse of LVG’s likely first choice defence.
Herrera’s loss will be a big one, but if Fletcher can lead by example and retain possession, then Mata will be able to provide that creative spark along with Di Maria and hope to inflict a 300th Premier League defeat for Everton, more than any other team.
A point might not necessarily be the end of the world given recent encounters with Everton but the Reds have more than enough in their arsenal to take all three points and start to turn Old Trafford back into the fortress it once was.
With questionable defence’s and exciting attack’s all round, much like either side’s recent matches, this one is sure to offer goals and plenty of them, so I’ll plump for a 3-2 United win, with Falcao hopefully opening his United account.
Probable line up: De Gea, Rafael, Shaw, Jones, Rojo, Blind, Fletcher, Di Maria, Mata, Van Persie, Falcao