Louis van Gaal heads into the weekend looking for his first back-to-back victories as Manchester United manager but faces a number of absentees for the visit of Everton at midday on Sunday.
The visitors will be coming back from their UEFA Europa League match in Russia on Thursday. After their previous Europa League game, a 4-1 win at home to VfL Wolfsburg, they were beaten 3-2 at home by Crystal Palace three days later.
Manchester United head into the weekend two points behind the top four, whilst Everton are two points above the relegation zone with only one win from their opening six games. Two points separate the sides.
Phil Jones is set to give his side a welcome boost this weekend as the England international is expected to be back this weekend. 19-year old Paddy McNair debutised last weekend due to a shortage of centre-backs available to the Dutch manager.
Tyler Blackett will also be back from suspension to give van Gaal three senior options at centre-back this weekend with Marcos Rojo also available. After an excellent debut, McNair should not be ruled out of contention just yet either.
Going forward, Wayne Rooney is suspended for the first of three games. Juan Mata would be the obvious replacement for the United captain.
Ander Herrera added to the injury list this week, joining Ashley Young, Marouane Fellaini, Michael Carrick, Jesse Lingard and James Wilson who are also still sidelined.
The Toffees have a couple of injury concerns themselves. Séamus Coleman and Sylvain Distin have missed the past two games, although could be fit to return this weekend. Whether Roberto Martínez will drop John Stones remains to be seen.
Kevin Mirallas is out with a hamstring injury. Steven Pienaar is yet to return from his groin injury but could do so on Sunday. James McCarthy is a slight doubt, whilst Ross Barkley is a long-term absentee.
We’ve gone with Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo to be the centre-back partnership. Adnan Januzaj to replace the injured Ander Herrera in midfield. This could potentially be filled with Darren Fletcher instead. Juan Mata to replace the suspended Rooney.
Everton played three central midfielders in the Merseyside derby last weekend and we see Martínez going with that formation again at Old Trafford. The Spanish manager likes to play Romelu Lukaku out on the right where he doesn’t like half as effective. Aiden McGeady a straight swap for Kevin Mirallas.
Ángel Di María vs Gareth Barry
Everton’s ageing midfielder hasn’t offered the best of defence to his back four this season as they have conceded the most goals through six games. He’s been taken apart against top players before so expect Ángel Di María to get the better of Gareth Barry in this battle. The England international is a yellow card waiting to happen with the trickery and dribbling of the Argentine international.
Robin van Persie vs Phil Jagielka
Neither Phil Jagielka or Sylain Distin have looked good in defence this season. John Stones has been Everton’s best defender. Robin van Persie has scored in each of his last two as the Dutch striker appears to have found both his fitness and form once again. With how Everton have defender this season and with the nine goals scored in their last three, expect van Persie to find a few good chances in this match.
Steven Naismith vs Phil Jones
Steven Naismith scored in his opening three matches but hasn’t scored in his last three Premier League matches. Still, the Scottish international does make intelligent runs in and around the penalty area to free him up and get himself into goalscoring positions. The Manchester United defence hasn’t been so good defending this season and Naismith may be the visitors’ best chance of a goal.
Prediction: Manchester United 3-1 Everton
Manchester United have been inconsistent to start the season but last weekend’s victory over West Ham should have boosted their confidence. Everton weren’t so good in defeat to Crystal Palace after their last Europa League game and they visit Old Trafford three days after a draw in Russia. Facing the worst defence in the Premier League we think United will score a few this weekend and take three points.
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