Manchester United welcome Everton to Old Trafford on Saturday as they prepare to end their pre-season campaign ahead of the new Premier League season commencing next weekend. United were supposed to face Preston North End last weekend but the fixture was cancelled because of a coronavirus scare which resulted in no first team players testing positive and the pre-season preparations continuing. United have spent the first half of the week at St Andrews in Scotland on their second training camp of the summer, which saw many first team players return to the club after their summer holidays. David De Gea, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes and Anthony Martial have all returned to training.
This pre-season campaign may not have been the best with Euro 2020 and Copa American, not to mention the Olympics all playing a part this summer but the players that played more than 60 matches last season will have had a good rest ahead of the new season commencing, which cannot be said for last summer with little rest between one season ending and a new season starting. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will see his team boosted by Jadon Sancho, who has not been pictured in training yet and Raphael Varane, whose signing has not yet been completed by the Old Trafford club. There is still hope that United will make more additions to the squad this summer, but that will result in clearing some players out of the club first, which may or may not be possible.
Previous meetings with Everton and their connections with Manchester United.
United and Everton have met a total of 206 times competitively since the formation of both clubs. United have won 90 times, drawn 46 times with Everton winning 70 times. In the last five meetings between both clubs, United are undefeated, winning twice and drawing three times. The last defeat to Everton was on the 21 April 2019 with the Toffees winning 4-0 with goals from Richarlison, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Lucas Digne and Theo Walcott. Prior to that match, United were unbeaten against Everton in the eight matches before, winning six and drawing twice. Rafael Benitez is now in the Everton hot seat and will be seeking to change the clubs fortunes after finishing tenth in the Premier League last season.
United and Everton have a long history with players featuring for both teams over the years. Currently, the only player at Everton to have played for United is Michael Keane. The 28-year-old started his footballing life at United as part of the clubs academy, alongside his brother, Will Keane. He was sold to Burnley in January 2015 before he was sold on to Everton in the summer of 2017. One of the beat known transfers from Everton to United was Wayne Rooney, who joined the Old Trafford club as a teenager in the summer of 2004. United have also signed Marouane Fellaini and Romelu Lukaku, amongst others from Everton in the not too distant past. Mark Hughes, Andrei Kanchelskis, Phil Neville, Jesper Blomqvist and Tim Howard have played for both clubs.
Here is my predicted starting XI to face Everton in their pre-season friendly at Old Trafford on Saturday afternoon…
Goalkeeper: Tom Heaton
Tom Heaton will be more match fit than David De Gea ahead of this match with the Spaniard not featuring for Spain at Euro 2020 and last playing for United on the 26 May in the Europa League final, losing on penalties to Villarreal with De Gea failing to save a penalty and missing his. Heaton has played in all three friendlies, playing 90 minutes against Brentford a week and a half ago. He has done well, showing his ability against both Derby County, the only match United have won this summer, and Queens Park Rangers, despite the 4-2 defeat. He even showed good signs against Brentford in the only match to be played at Old Trafford so far this summer, ahead of the Everton clash. It is possible that the former academy goalkeeper could start against Leeds United.
Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw
United have gone through the summer with a weakened defence with the trio of Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw on an extended break after being involved in Euro 2020, with England reaching the final but losing to Italy on penalties. Aaron Wan-Bissaka will probably start at right-back again, which is a positive as he has done well this summer, especially with his assist against Brentford. Lindelof and Maguire could partner in the centre of the defence, with them giving 45 or even 60 minutes to give them a chance of featuring against Leeds, which might be a must depending on when Rafael Varane’s deal gets completed. Luke Shaw should start at left-back, if he is fit and able to, as he was a stand out player last season and at Euro 2020.
Midfield: Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba
United have problems with the midfield. Nemanja Matic is the only experienced defensive midfielder at the club which is a major worry as Fred and Scott McTominay are not the answer in the pivot role, unless the formation will be changed once Rafael Varane has settled into the squad? United need another player to fill the void as Matic cannot play as often as he once used to. He has played in pre-season matches this summer and has done well. He could perhaps play alongside Paul Pogba in this match with the Frenchman able to play for 45 or even 60 minutes, getting him ready for the new season, unless his head is elsewhere, which may no longer be the case with the news about Lionel Messi and Paris Saint-Germain.
Attacking Midfield: Mason Greenwood, Bruno Fernandes, Anthony Martial
Mason Greenwood is the only player in this trio that has been involved in all three pre-season matches that have been played this summer. He has played in the wide positions and as the main striker in the team and is yet to be involved in a goal this summer, which is a minor worry. Bruno Fernandes has not played yet, returning to training last week and being involved in the training group in Scotland earlier this week. I feel that he could give 45 or even 60 minutes in this match, which would be a big help ahead of the Leeds match next weekend. Anthony Martial has not played this summer but has recovered from injury. This season could be a good one for the Frenchman. It will be a make or break season for him. He needs to provide what United need, not hide away.
Forwards: Anthony Elanga
Anthony Elanga has done well so far this summer, despite a recent injury, continuing from the last Premier League match of the season when he scored his first senior goal for the club. Solskjaer seems to have a dilemma to sort out with the teenager, who has great pace, great ability and seems to fit into the first team this time. This has happened before with Marcus Rashford, who is out of action until at least October and Mason Greenwood. Could Elanga be the next academy graduate to grace the first team? Right now, he is doing everything that he needs to do in order to develop, which is what everyone wants to see. I believe that he can offer something to United this season, either starting the low key matches or coming off the bench.
Substitutes: David De Gea, Lee Grant, Matej Kovar; Phil Jones, Diogo Dalot, Brandon Williams, Axel Tuanzebe; Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Andreas Pereira, Fred, Daniel James, Donny Van de Beek, James Garner, Scott McTominay
It was anticipated that Solskjaer would have had Edinson Cavani, Jadon Sancho and Rafael Varane for this match but both Cavani and Sancho have not yet returned to training and Varane has not yet completed his move to United. It is likely that the squad that trained in Scotland earlier this week will be the squad to face Everton, perhaps with some surprises – perhaps not. David De Gea, Lee Grant and Matej Kovar could be available in goal. Phil Jones, Diogo Dalot, Brandon Williams and Axel Tuanzebe could be available in defence. In midfield, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Andreas Pereira, Fred, Daniel James, Donny van de Beek, James Garner and Scott McTominay could be available. There might not be any experienced attacking players on the bench.
Written by John Walker