Manchester United play their third game in a week as David Moyes prepares to face off against his former club Everton as the Merseyside outfit make the short journey to Manchester for a game under the Old Trafford floodlights.
Moyes ended his 11 year spell at Goodison Park this summer when he agreed to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson as United boss and this is the first time he will face Everton, in a match which many would consider a must win for the Reds.
United currently sit nine points behind leaders Arsenal in eighth position and despite going over two months without defeat, two consecutive draws against Cardiff City and more recently Tottenham Hotspur at the weekend have left Moyes’ side off of the pace at the top and in danger of being out of the title race.
The transition at Everton has been much smoother as Roberto Martinez has led the Toffees to fifth in the table having lost just one game in the Premier League so far. Martinez’s side go into the in good form having easily beat Stoke 4-0 on Saturday and they also grabbed a point in a 3-3 derby draw against Liverpool last weekend.
United’s midfield options for the game are somewhat limited for the visit of Everton with Phil Jones suspended and Michael Carrick injured. Marouane Fellaini may start against his former club after a £27.5 million summer move in a match he’ll simply have to perform in. Elsewhere, Rafael could return to the side as could Robin van Persie who has missed United’s last two.
Martinez has no new injury concerns ahead of the game although Leighton Baines, Arouna Kone and former Red Darron Gibson are all out. Kevin Mirallas and Ross Barkley were both rested at the weekend and may start while Romelu Lukaku, who has been a revelation since joining on loan from Chelsea, is likely to lead the line.
The spoils were shared between the two sides last season – Everton won 1-0 on the opening weekend of the season at Goodison Park courtesy of a Fellaini header while United were victorious in the reverse with a comfortable 2-0 victory. The Toffees also took points off United in the 2011-12 season when they scored two late goals in a thrilling but heart-breaking 4-4 draw, considered by many as the game where the title turned.
Everton have not beaten United at Old Trafford in 21 years, a run Roberto Martinez will be desperate to end if Everton are to finish in the top four this season but this may be seen as the perfect time to play United with all the injuries and suspensions significantly weakening the side, particularly in midfield.
Lukaku has been Everton’s main man this season with eight goals in the league, including three in his last two. The 20-year-old is in a rich vein of form and seems to resemble Didier Drogba just a little bit more with every performance. United have struggled to deal with the physical prowess of the Chelsea man in the past, with Lukaku scoring a hat-trick for West Brom against United in Sir Alex Ferguson‘s last ever game but Nemanja Vidic will thrive on the challenge to shackle the striker.
A third consecutive draw could have disastrous consequences for United’s title defence but a win could help us kick-on over the hectic festive period.
Prediction: Manchester United 1-1 Everton