It hasn’t been easy to relive the end of last season countless times through adverts, montages, and other unwelcome but unavoidable reminders, and reliving them many more times throughout this season won’t be easy either.
However, optimism that last season’s bad memories can be put in the back of the mind should be high. Sure, United haven’t signed that midfielder that many feel is required, and big-money targets Eden Hazard and Lucas Moura opted for other options, but the signings of two top talents in Japanese star Shinji Kagawa and one Robin van Persie have signaled some serious intent and generated a great deal of excitement and anticipation ahead of tonight’s season-opening visit to Everton.
That the outcome of last meeting against Everton was one of the defining reasons last season turned out as it did is another reason why anticipation is at a high level as well. A win tonight won’t make up for last season’s costly 4-4 draw at Old Trafford, but it is required for multiple reasons, and it’s fair to say that if United take a two-goal lead at any point tonight, there will be no letup or loss of concentration.
A win won’t come easy though, as Everton have no fear about going toe-to-toe with United from start to finish, as we’ve seen time and again.
And while there’s plenty of optimism for United, there’s no doubt plenty on Everton’s end, as they finished last season on a nine-match unbeaten run and come into the new season with a strong core. Jack Rodwell departed earlier this month, somewhat surprisingly moving to City in an eight-figure deal, and while he’ll certainly be missed, Everton will more than cope, as he never started more than 17 Premier League matches in any of his four seasons as a first-team regular. The sale of Tim Cahill to Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls is a bigger blow, but it’s not a catastrophic one either, as his production had taken a dip last season and he’s well on the wrong side of 30.
David Moyes has had a little money to spend this summer, not that he needs it, given how much he’s accomplished with few expensive signings. Another signing or two could yet arrive at Goodison Park before the window closes, but Moys will have to be pleased with the business that has been done to this point. Steven Pienaar was snapped up permanently, while Rangers striker Steven Naismith fell into their lap for free, and part of the Rodwell funds have been used to fund a swoop for Belgian striker Kevin Mirallas, who fired in a league-leading 20 goals to help Olympiakos win yet another Greek title.
With minimal key losses and the aforementioned quality additions, the pieces are in place for the Toffees to be a very dangerous side this season. With one of the Premier League’s top keepers in Tim Howard, an experienced back line, a strong midfield, and Mirallas and star January signing Nikica Jelavic leading an attack that now has more bite than in some time, a top-six finish is well within reach.