What’s the best way to put a terrible defeat behind you? One word: winning. After Sunday’s Manchester derby disaster, Manchester United took a step in the right direction with a comfortable 3-0 win at Aldershot in the fourth round of the Carling Cup on Tuesday. However, as nice as that win was, a win against a League Two side doesn’t quite compare to the boost that an away win against Everton today would provide. Goodison Park is never an easy place to play, and if United can bounce back with a strong performance against a tough team in a tough place to play, it will be a very welcome sight.
There was late drama in both of United’s meetings with Everton last season. When they met at Goodison Park in September, United appeared to have the three points all wrapped up, as they held a 3-1 lead going into the dying minutes. However, Everton struck twice in a frantic final few minutes to stunningly secure a 3-3 draw.
The Toffees came to Old Trafford in late April looking to trip United up in their pursuit of title #19, and they very nearly did it, holding United for more than 80 minutes thanks to a fine performance by Tim Howard. But as he has been so many times already in his short United career, Javier Hernandez was the hero, with his 84th-minute header breaking Everton’s brave resistance and giving United a vital 1-0 win.
United haven’t fared well at Goodison Park in recent times, not winning there in three trips since a 1-0 win in September 2007.
Everton tend to stutter early on before picking things up and finishing comfortably inside the top half of the table, and they look to be following that same pattern this season.
After having their season opener at Tottenham postponed due to the London riots, Everton started the season with a home defeat against QPR before picking up seven of nine points in their next three matches. That was followed by consecutive defeats at City, at home to Liverpool, and at Chelsea, in which they were outscored a combined 7-1.
The Toffees broke that three-match losing streak in their last match, and they did it in dramatic fashion, with late, late goals from Louis Saha (remember him?) and Jack Rodwell (future United star…?) giving them a 3-1 win at Fulham, who are, as United know well, not easy to beat at Craven Cottage.
Everton are always one of the more interesting teams to watch in the Premier League. They don’t spend nearly as much as many other teams can and do, but David Moyes always gets the best out of what he has, which is a credit to his abilities as a manager.
That being said, it does take some level of quality to achieve results as well, and Moyes does have some highly-talented players at his disposal. Howard has firmly established himself as one of the Premier League’s top keepers since leaving United for Everton, and it doesn’t hurt to have a strong, experienced defense in front of him led by Leighton Baines, Sylvain Distin, and Phil Jagielka.
Along with Rodwell, who’s been linked with United for quite some time, the man to watch today might be Tim Cahill. Cahill has been a consistent attacking threat for Everton throughout his time there, but all he has to his credit thus far this season is a single assist.
Tuesday’s win over Aldershot wasn’t what anyone would define as massive, it did accomplish a few things.
Firstly, it allowed for Tom Cleverley and Nemanja Vidic to get a valuable 90 minutes under their belts as they attempt to return to full fitness. Having those two fit and out there on Sunday could have made a real difference, but we’ll never know. As it is, it’ll be nice to see them in the starting lineup today. The sooner Vidic is back at his best, the better, but it’s fair to say that Cleverley’s return might be even more important, given how much focus there is on the center of United‘s midfield and how important consistent and continuity in that area are to success.
The match also allowed some fringe players to state their case to be considered for a start today. United’s depth up front has rendered both Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen mostly useless this season, but both scored in the win, and perhaps putting one of those two up front when they’re hungry for the opportunity and raring to prove that they’re worthy of more opportunities could provide a real jolt of energy for United. For those who might have been taking their starting spots for granted, the City defeat should serve as a wakeup call, because now’s the time for Fergie to take stock of what he has and see who his best XI really is.
One change that may come by force is on the left flank, as Ashley Young is an injury doubt due to a toe injury. If he isn’t able to go, will we see Park on the left, with Nani on the right? Or will we see Nani switch to the left with Antonio Valencia, who scored a real cracker of a goal on Tuesday, slot in on the right?
Defensively, there are many combinations that could be used, but it would appear that Vidic is a certainty. And even though there have been more than a few glaring errors over the last season-plus, it’s tough to see Fergie leave Patrice Evra out for a game like this one. However, Fabio is an option at left back, and perhaps it’s only a matter of time before Zeke Fryers gets his chance in a Premier League or Champions League game.
Winning at Goodison Park isn’t an easy feat, and you can expect Everton to come out with the intent to deny United a vital bounce-back win.
But as I said before, United will bounce back, because that’s what United do, and that’s what I’m sticking to.
Score Prediction: Everton 0-2 Manchester United