Manchester United vs. Everton
Tuesday, April 4, 2017
Manchester United will look to recover from Saturday’s disappointing goalless draw with West Bromwich Albion when they welcome a wounded Everton to Old Trafford in the Premier League on Tuesday night.
Jose Mourinho’s side seemingly had the perfect chance to gain ground on their rivals when they welcomed the Baggies on Saturday afternoon, but a drab affair ended with the two teams sharing the spoils.
Man United have now drawn eight of their 15 league games at Old Trafford this season, and it is the first time since the 1980-81 campaign that they have shared the points in eight home matches during a single league season.
The Red Devils remained fifth in the Premier League table after Arsenal’s 2-2 draw with Manchester City on Sunday afternoon, and the gap to fourth-place Man City is now five points, although Mourinho’s side do have a game in hand over their Manchester rivals.
Man United are six points off third-place Liverpool, meanwhile, although they have two games in hand over the Merseyside outfit. There is no question that the race for the top four is still very much open, but there is a genuine concern for the Man United supporters at every home match this season.
Incredibly, the Red Devils only have the 10th-best home record in the Premier League this season – winning just six of their 15 matches. They have been very impressive on the road – winning eight of their 13 fixtures and suffering just two defeats, but Old Trafford has not been a happy home.
Mourinho’s side have actually only conceded twice at Old Trafford in all competitions in 2017, and both of those were penalties. They have only scored 20 home goals this season, however, which is a record bettered by 13 teams in the division, including struggling Swansea City.
Man City are the only team to take all three points from Old Trafford this term, but Stoke City, Burnley, Arsenal, West Ham United, Liverpool, Hull City, Bournemouth and now West Brom have all shared the points with Man United on home soil, which is an indication of their troubles.
On a more positive note, the Red Devils are now unbeaten in their last 19 games in the Premier League, which stretches back to a 4-0 defeat at Chelsea on October 23. April promises to be a testing month, however, as they face an incredibly busy run of matches, including a Europa League quarter-final.
After facing Everton on Tuesday night, they will travel to Sunderland on Sunday afternoon. Then comes the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final away to Anderlecht on April 13, before hosting Chelsea three days later.
The second leg of their Europa League quarter-final is at home to Anderlecht on April 20, before taking on Burnley, Man City and Swansea in the Premier League all before the end of the month. That is without mentioning a trip to Southampton that still needs to be rescheduled, although that fixture is expected to be rearranged for May depending on European commitments.
Man United have actually lost just one of their last 23 home league meetings with Everton, however, winning an impressive 19 times in the process. The points were shared in a 1-1 draw at Goodison Park earlier this season, but an Anthony Martial effort saw the 20-time English champions record a 1-0 victory in the corresponding match at Old Trafford last term.
Everton would move above Man United in the table on goal difference if they were to win on Tuesday night, but the Toffees will have to improve on their disappointing performance in the Merseyside derby at the weekend.
Indeed, a lacklustre performance from Ronald Koeman’s side saw them suffer a 3-1 defeat at Liverpool as their rotten record in that particular fixture continued. The Toffees stayed seventh in the table following the weekend’s results, but their away form will be a concern entering this month, having won just four of their 15 games on their travels – suffering seven defeats in the process.
There are bigger matches for Man United this month than Everton at home, but there is just no downplaying the importance of Tuesday’s match. The West Brom fixture left the vast majority of supporters with a sour taste in their mouth, and it is vital that the Red Devils return to winning ways at Old Trafford as soon as possible.
Defensively, there has been little wrong with Man United, especially in recent weeks, and especially at Old Trafford. They have been the better team in almost all of their fixtures on home soil, but converting chances has been a serious problem.
No side has lost fewer Premier League fixtures than Man United (3) this season, but no team has drawn more (11). Mourinho’s side could yet draw their way to a top-four finish, but back-to-back wins over Everton and Sunderland before the Chelsea game on April 16 would stand Man United in good stead in their battle for a Champions League finish.
Man United will welcome leading scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic back into the fold at Old Trafford, with the experienced Swede now having served his four-match suspension. Ander Herrera, meanwhile, is also back from suspension and is expected to be handed an immediate return to the XI.
Paul Pogba is also expected to feature after overcoming the hamstring problem that he picked up last month, while Marouane Fellaini’s impressive recent form should see the Belgian handed another starting role.
Marcus Rashford was criticised following the goalless draw with West Brom and could drop out, but Anthony Martial and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are expected to continue in the final third, joining Ibrahimovic in a three-pronged attack.
Chris Smalling and Phil Jones remain on the sidelines with ‘long-term’ injuries, however, while Juan Mata is expected to miss the remainder of the season after being forced to undergo groin surgery.
Luke Shaw is also expected to be left out of the matchday squad once again after Mourinho questioned the defender’s commitment to the club in a scathing interview at the weekend.
As for Everton, injuries to Ramiro Funes Mori and Seamus Coleman have depleted Koeman’s options in defence, while James McCarthy and Yannick Bolasie remain on the sidelines for the Merseyside outfit.
Morgan Schneiderlin is also expected to be denied an Old Trafford return as he struggles to overcome a calf problem, but Gareth Barry and Kevin Mirallas are expected to start after both coming off the bench against Liverpool.
The spotlight will also once again be on Toffees forward Romelu Lukaku, who has only scored three times in eight Premier League appearances against the current top six this season, compared to 18 in 21 games against the rest of the division.
Man United: De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Rojo, Young; Herrera, Fellaini, Pogba; Mkhitaryan, Ibrahimovic, Martial
Everton: Joel; Holgate, Jagielka, Williams, Baines; Barry, Gueye, Davies; Mirallas, Lukaku, Barkley