Manchester United return to Premier League action on Saturday as they welcome Everton to Old Trafford. United last won in the league when they beat West Ham United almost a fortnight ago, losing to Aston Villa at the Theatre of Dreams last week. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side desperately need to get back to winning ways in the league despite sitting a point away from the top spot although four other teams share the same number of points that United have at this stage of the season. If United let their position slip now, they will find it much harder to get back in the mix when it matters. Keeping the challenge up is much-needed right now.
United got back to winning ways against Villarreal at Old Trafford on Wednesday evening, coming from behind to win the match in added time. United conceded a goal in the 53rd minute of the match and Alex Telles struck seven minutes later to equalise. United struggled to find a winner, despite being resurgent for large periods of the second half. Cristiano Ronaldo, assisted by Jesse Lingard, scored the winner in the very last minute of added time to get all three points in the bag for United, which was a must after the defeat to Young Boys a fortnight ago. United need to get back to winning ways in the Premier League at home this weekend.
Previous meetings with Everton and their connections with Manchester United.
United and Everton have met 58 times in the Premier League. United have won 37 times, drawn 12 times and the Toffees have won the remaining nine matches. United have scored a total of 108 goals, winning five penalties and scoring four of them. Everton have scored just 57 goals, winning four penalties and scoring three of them. The Red Devils have kept 24 clean sheets with the Toffees keeping nine. Discipline has been an issue in this fixture with United players receiving 76 yellow cards and two red cards and Everton players being shown 108 yellow cards and three red cards.
There has been a long history of players to have played for both United and Everton. The likes of Mark Hughes, Andrei Kanchelskis, John O’Kane, Phil Neville, Jesper Blomqvist, Tim Howard, Louis Saha, Darron Gibson, Marouane Fellaini, Michael Keane, Tom Cleverley, Romelu Lukaku and Morgan Schneiderlin have all played for United but the most successful player of them all was Wayne Rooney. He was sold to United for £25 million as an 18-year-old in the summer of 2004 and started to break the records from his debut against Fenerbahce when he scored a hat-trick. Before he rejoined Everton in 2017, he became United’s all time top scorer.
Here is my predicted starting XI to face Everton in the Premier League at Old Trafford on Saturday afternoon…
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
David De Gea is still the name to fill the void in the goal for Manchester United. He performed to the best of his abilities against Villarreal, despite conceding a goal eight minutes into the second half of the match. As has been seen each time he has played this season, his confidence is growing each time and he is able to find the best of his abilities once more, making many saves to keep United pushing in matches. Granted, that is not happening all over the pitch as United have a relatively weak midfield which does not control matches as they should. It does not help that Solskjaer is not using the stronger members of the team regularly.
De Gea needs to help solve the problem in defence, which is a weakness in the squad, even with the signing of Raphael Varane in the summer. When he is partnered with Harry Maguire, there is some confidence but Victor Lindelof was a massive weak link against the Spanish team. I believe that with De Gea being more vocal in the team, he could command the defence and bring the best out of them moving forward. I think Solskjaer could show some bravery by recognising the weaknesses in the squad and addressing them. There are may problems in this squad which need to be addressed if United are to challenge for anything this season.
Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Raphael Varane, Eric Bailly, Luke Shaw
The defence is just one of the areas that faces some problems this season. Aaron Wan-Bissaka will probably be viewed as a great signing after the performance of Diogo Dalot against Villarreal on Wednesday evening, which did not cover the Portuguese right-back in glory. United will hope they can find a buyer for the player in either January or next summer so they can strengthen the position. Dalot can be good at times and will probably earn more chances, but he needs to seek significant improvement. Luke Shaw’s absence was missed following his injury but Alex Telles scored the equaliser, despite a poor performance, which is a bonus.
Having Shaw back in the team this weekend, providing he is fit to do so, will be a major bonus. Seeing United attack with prose from the left will be good to see. This 4-3-3 formation sees Cristiano Ronaldo playing on the left-wing, so Shaw’s pace and energy will be important. Perhaps if Shaw misses out and Telles is unable to play, Alvaro Fernandez could be given a shot in this position? Raphael Varane will keep his place against Everton – being the best central defender against Villarreal but his partner, Maguire will be out of action again and perhaps Lindelof should be on the bench with Eric Bailly given a shot to earn his place in the team this season?
Midfield: Donny van de Beek, Nemanja Matic, Bruno Fernandes
The weakest area on the pitch this season is the midfield. The reason for this is having just one experienced defensive midfield; Nemanja Matic, who cannot play week in and week out throughout the season. Without him on the pitch means that we will see Fred and Scott McTominay in the pivot positions for much of the season with McTominay shining last season but Fred still on the wane. Solskjaer needs to find a way to absolve this. Donny van de Beek is hardly playing any matches, despite having more than 400 minutes under his belt this season and considering his experience, it is pointless him being on the bench.
Against Everton, United need to find a way to dominate the midfield and that would be having three midfielders in a 4-3-3 formation would go a long way to doing that. Nemanja Matic played a small role in Wednesday’s match and with the international break coming up, there is no reason why he could not start Saturday’s match. Donny van de Beek will be fit to play and will be itching to start this match given that he was frustrated to no play a part against Villarreal. Bruno Fernandes should also start and with the luxury of having Paul Pogba on the bench, he could be replaced by the Frenchman in the second half, giving him a rest too.
Forwards: Jadon Sancho, Edinson Cavani, Cristiano Ronaldo
United have a wealth of attacking talent at their disposal this season and it needs to be used in a way that will help to obliterate the opposition and allow players to play to their strengths, whilst also being rotated with other players, which will need to happen when both Marcus Rashford and Amad Diallo are both fit and ready to play a part this season. Against Everton, it is important that United get three points in the bag and keep the pressure on the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City, who will be the clubs chasing the Premier League title this season – there are other clubs seeking to keep up now but that will changes as the season grows older.
Jadon Sancho deserves to start this match, playing in his favoured right-wing position. He did well at times against Villarreal and will need to consistently get minutes under his belt if he is to find his feet at the club. When he gets his first goal or assist, he will be ready to keep them coming. Edinson Cavani should start too as he has so much to give and has been bright when coming off the bench after he recovered from his injury from the last international break. Cristiano Ronaldo have five goals so far this season and should also start, possible out on the left, which is a position he could still cut in from, causing damage in the box and hopefully scoring.
Substitutes: Dean Henderson; Victor Lindelof, Alex Telles; Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Fred, Scott McTominay; Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood
United can name nine substitutes in the Premier League, using three of them. Solskjaer was able to use five in the Champions League, which gave some players a run out, but not the ones that should have played – Van de Beek – which was a shame. Dean Henderson will remain on the bench but he will be seeking more football, that might perhaps come after the international break in the Champions League against Atalanta and he might not be happy with just that, seeking to put more pressure on De Gea, as he did last season. In defence, Victor Lindelof and Alex Telles could be available, despite the latter coming off injured against Villarreal.
In midfield, Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Fred and Scott McTominay could bother to be called upon with Solskjaer loving the McFred pivot, which possible means they will start the match and the Van de Beek problem will rumble on through the international break and cause even more damage at the club. The Dutchman should be getting regular minutes in this squad as he could give so much for United. In attack, Anthony Martial will keep his place on the bench, as that is what he deserves. When his performances change, he will be trusted more but he needs to start making an impact. Mason Greenwood will be the other forward – and likely to get minutes.
Written by John Walker