Another international break has ended finally giving United the opportunity to avenge the 1-0 defeat against Chelsea. Willing victims, Everton, line up at Old Trafford in the day’s late kick-off, with Sir Alex Ferguson’s touchline ban not set to begin until after the match; he will surely demand a victory before he takes his seat in the stands.
In the terraces, for sure, will sit Gary Neville, who is suspended. Our defensive injury crisis worsened as John O’Shea picked up an ankle injury against France and remains doubtful for today’s game. Jonny Evans is touch and go with a calf strain and along with long-term absentee Rio Ferdinand, our defence will be stretched to its limits.
The good news is Nemanja Vidic — who has been out of action for three weeks with a calf problem — should return to marshal the defence after playing 70 minutes for Serbia against South Korea on Wednesday. Lining up beside him will no doubt be a jubilant Patrice Evra; Wes Brown, fresh from a woeful display against Brazil, and likely Rafael at right-back.
One thing you can probably guarantee is Nani won’t be getting on the pitch this weekend, despite his heroics for Portugal over the last week. His recent attack on Sir Alex will have not gone unnoticed by the manager. Paul Scholes, a lover of the much-maligned international break looks a certain starter; well rested and having missed out against Chelsea, he will surely be raring to go. For the other midfield slot, it is probably between Fletcher and Carrick, although since Carrick is carrying a slight thigh strain expect the Scot to start beside Scholesy.
Ryan Giggs, stuck on 99 Premier League goals, is expected to feature at some point as well in a bid to grab that all-important 100th goal. Gabriel Obertan will be pushing for a start, given his recent performances for both the first team and reserves, while Valencia will provide the attacking thrust down the right. Let’s hope he can deliver a few telling balls and carry on his recent run of good form.
Stand-in England captain, Wayne Rooney will no doubt lead the line against his former team. Dimitar Berbatov will look to carry forward his form with Bulgaria, as he bagged brace in the 4-1 thrashing of Malta to become Bulgaria’s all-time leading scorer with 48 goals in 74 appearances. He replaces Hristo Bonev, who held the record for 30 years.
The Toffees bring a number of ex-United stars back to Old Trafford. Louis Saha will be out to prove a point, if he manages to stay fit between now and kick-off. Tim Howard and, of course, the other Neville brother will be back, though the latter is out through injury.
Fergie clearly has a great amount of respect for Everton boss David Moyes, commenting on the injury crisis at Goodison and comparing it to our own. “Everton have had a tremendous run of injuries and David Moyes is facing much the same situation as myself at the moment. You can understand how difficult it is to win games when you don’t have your best team out. Once they get their full squad back they will soon come up the table again.”
Russian winger Diniyar Bilyaletdinov will definitely be out for Everton as he serves the second of his three-match suspension while Tim Cahill is doubtful with a groin injury. Among other absentees for the Merseysiders are Mikel Arteta, Phil Jagielka, Leon Osman and Victor Anichebe. Despite this Everton find themselves in exactly the same situation as last season, 12th on 15 points after 11 matches.
They are also bring a potential United star of the future, Jack Rodwell, recently linked with us for a staggering £20m fee, who will have the chance to show his potential employers what he is capable of. With a cool head and likened to Rio Ferdinand in style, it is easy to see why SAF is interested given the injury problems Rio has.
This season has been a tale of inconsistency for Everton but a run of 7 games without a win was ended with the 3-2 victory over West Ham two weeks ago. An injury ravaged Everton should provide a relatively simple test for us, especially after the injustice at Stamford Bridge. However, recent home results against Birmingham, Manchester City, Sunderland and Bolton do not exactly inspire confidence.
We can’t afford to drop any more points despite proclamations that the five point lead Chelsea hold isn’t ‘insurmountable’. Unbeaten at Old Trafford since 1992 against Everton, United have only lost once in the last 28 meetings between the sides.
Prediction: 3-1 United
Probable Line Up: Van der Sar; Evra, Vidic, Brown, Rafael; Obertan, Scholes, Fletcher, Valencia; Rooney, Berbatov