Manchester United will face Everton at Old Trafford in the Premier League on Saturday. United returned to winning ways against Brentford on Wednesday evening with Marcus Rashford scoring his 28th goal of the season – the only goal of the game. United sit in fourth place in the Premier League ahead of the match – level on points with Newcastle United in third with goal difference separating them. United sit three points clear of fifth placed Tottenham Hotspur.
A victory over Everton will see United rise back to third in the league but Newcastle will need to beat Brentford to get back into third. Both United and Newcastle will still have a game in hand over Spurs at this stage of the season so the pressure will be on them to keep winning or face missing out on the UEFA Champions League next season. Erik ten Hag will be seeking United to go out with a winning mentality and aiding their finish to the season.
United will have played nine matches by the end of April which could still see them being involved in the UEFA Europa League, providing they beat six-time winners Sevilla, and the Emirates FA Cup, providing they beat Brighton and Hove Albion which could see the winner face either Manchester City or Sheffield United in the final at Wembley later this season. It has been a positive season for United and with Casemiro and Christian Eriksen back it will be better.
Predicted Manchester United Starting XI – 4-2-3-1
Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Martinez, Malacia;
Antony, Fernandes, Rashford;
Goalkeeper: De Gea
David De Gea has been a standout performer for United this season. In the Premier League he has 12 clean sheets with only Nick Pope ahead of him with 13. It is possible that he could end the season with a Premier League Golden Glove once again but it seems to be a three horse race for that honour so far this season with Aaron Ramsdale also involved in the race for the award – which could be won with the Premier League trophy for the Arsenal goalkeeper.
De Gea has been a positive for the majority of the season but there have been a few mistakes, which will be the same with all goalkeepers over the world over the course of a season. Whilst he is fit, De Gea will be the number one goalkeeper for United and will most likely remain in goal for the remainder of the season. With what United need to achieve this season, I find it hard to believe that Jack Butland will be given a game, let alone a run of them this season.
Perhaps if United find themselves in a good position in the league with two of three matches left to play, Butland could be given a start in goal and perhaps Tom Heaton could also have an appearance as this could be his last season as a goalkeeper, although there is an option for another year at United after this season. That said, I see De Gea in goal against Everton and he will be seeking to get something from the game and from his season in the Premier League.
Defenders: Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Martinez, Malacia
United’s defence has endured a tough season and despite some of the results – at the start of the season and at other stages – it has largely been a positive for United. Ten Hag has started to achieve something at the Old Trafford club and that is something much different to any of his predecessors. Aaron Wan-Bissaka, now that he has recovered from illness, should start in the right-back role against Everton. Diogo Dalot has played the last two matches, which will provide rotation.
At left-back, Luke Shaw suffered an injury in the first half against Brentford on Wednesday evening. He probably will not feature against Everton on Saturday with him being checked for an injury, which will take some time. It is possible that he may not be involved until United return to UEFA Europa League action against Sevilla on Thursday next week. Shaw is definitely the best left-back at United but Tyrell Malacia its a talented player that will step in against Everton.
In the centre of the defence, United will probably;y continue with both Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez against Everton. The duo are the best central defensive partnership at United this season. Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof will need to be content with bit part roles at the club with one or both being sold in the summer to make way for more reinforcements. United need to progress in their defensive ability, closing the door on a large numbe of goals being conceded.
Midfield: Fred, Sabitzer
United’s midfield will have to rely on two or three players for one more match before Casemiro is back from his domestic suspension. He has missed the last three matches with the Everton clash being his last. United need him back as things change so much without him. If Christian Eriksen was not injured in January, Casemiro being suspended would not be such a big deal. United have Marcel Sabitzer, Scott McTominay and Fred at this moment in time.
Against Everton, I think Fred should start. McTominay has played the last two matches post-international break and Fred has something to offer United. His energy and the stability in the midfield might benefit Sabitzer more which him preferring to play an advanced role, which helped to get United’s goal against Brentford with the Austrian setting up Marcus Rashford for his 28th goal of the season. Ten Hag has not ruled out Eriksen for this match either, which is a positive.
Obviously the Danish international will need to get through a fitness test ahead of the match and should he pass that, I think it is more likely that he will be involved from the bench, rather from the start of the match. He has something to offer United and his absence, much like Casemiro’s has been a big miss for United – especially when they have been playing on average every three days since the FIFA World Cup ended. United will be confidence of midfield dominance after this match.
Attacking Midfield: Antony, Fernandes, Rashford
The attacking positions in the midfield are where the majority of United’s goals have come from this season. Antony has seven goals and one assist – eight goal contributions. Bruno Fernandes has ten goals and ten assists – 20 goal contributions and Marcus Rashford has 28 goals and seven assists – 35 goal contributions. That is a total of 45 goals and 18 assists – 63 goal contributions in total. United should be scoring more goals though but the strikers have not live up to expectations.
Against Everton, I think the only changes will be Wan-Bissaka starting at right-back and Anthony Martial starting up front with Marcus Rashford reverting back to the left-wing role that he has favoured this season. I don’t think Jadon Sancho has done enough to warrant a starting place at this stage of the season. He has frustrated more than he has shone. Antony was the best attacking outlet against Brentford and should start against Everton. He can be a good outlet.
Bruno Fernandes will keep his place in the central attacking role but he will need to step up his game and start to provide for United again. He has 20 goal contributions this season, which is a great achievement but I am sure he would like to be scoring more goals. Rashford in his left-wing role would seem more beneficial for him and United as he will be able to get forward, working with Malacia and putting balls in for Martial – if he is up for performing this season.
Anthony Martial is a capable striker that should be scoring 20 goals a season – at least on paper. In reality, he is an injury prone player that does not seem to be up for the challenge of achieving things with United. he has missed much of the season due to injury and his lack of performance so far, despite seeming to be in great form during pre-season and the early part of the season, which is resulted in him scoring the majority of his six goals and two assists.
Martial has had some great seasons for United in the past but that is not all that good when in current form, he is failing to achieve. Wout Weghorst was brought in on loan for the remainder of the season in January but has been a let down in terms of goals and assists so far this season, despite his high work rate, which has been an inspiration for United. Both Weghorst and Martial have been largely terrible of late for United with more direct strikers needed in the summer.
Rashford has played as the striker a few times this season but it is the left-wing where the majority of his goals have come from (15) with ten of them coming from a centre-forward position. United will need to find a way to end the season with the goals coming as there is still a lot to achieve; top four in the Premier League and two more trophies up for grabs with United in the semi final of the Emirates FA Cup and the quarter final of the UEFA Europa League.
Substitutes: Butland; Lindelof, Maguire, Dalot; Eriksen, McTominay; Sancho, Weghorst, Pellistri
Ten Hag will have nine players to choose from on the substitutes bench with up to five of them allowed to be used in the Premier League. Jack Butland looks set to be the goalkeeper on the bench with Heaton out with an ankle injury and no other goalkeeper ay the club having a vast array of first team experience. I doubt that will get him on the pitch though with De Gea able to play and not really in need of a rest having not been selected for Spain during the course of the season.
In defence, United seem to be vastly stocked there with Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire and Diogo Dalot all available. Luke Shaw could be available too if his injury is not serious – but I think he will miss the Everton match for him to be ready to face Sevilla in the Europa League quarter final first leg on Thursday. United will need defensive reinforcement towards the end of the Everton match, especially if they are only able to score one goal – stopping an Everton onslaught at the end.
In midfield, Ten Hag has not yet ruled out the inclusion of Christian Eriksen against Everton, would would be great for the strength in depth of the midfield. Scott McTominay could be the only midfielder on the bench if the Dane is not included in the match day squad. In attack, Jadon Sancho, Wout Weghorst and Facundo Pellistri could also be available with the Uruguayan seeking another chance to shine from the bench. He has demonstrated a tricky ability this season.
Written by John Walker