Two teams who have had a topsy-turvy 2022/23 season face off against each other on Saturday. The visitors, Everton, have had more downs than ups, being rooted in a relegation battle since the beginning of the season, but have picked up form of late. The hosts, Manchester United, have had quite the journey under Erik ten Hag, ending their trophy drought this season, but at the same time suffering calamitous defeats in the league, making it a real rollercoaster ride for the Man Utd. Both teams are desperate for a win on Saturday, as United look to cement their position in the top 4, while Everton look to increase the distance between themselves and the bottom three.
Manchester United played some beautiful football when they were last in action against Brentford at home, as they got back to winning ways with a 1-0 victory over the Bees. The Red Devils were in control for large parts of the game and created many decent opportunities, but could not capitalize on them. Marcus Rashford gave the home side the lead in the first half after a lobbed ball from the edge of the box by Antony was laid off to the Englishman by Marcel Sabitzer, and Rashford made no mistake striking the ball home from close range. It was a victory from which United took away a lot of positives, especially after their miserable time on Tyneside last weekend. The Red Devils were by far the better team in the tie and were more confident in possession. It was the reaction that fans hoped for, and will be hoping for a similar performance against a relegation-threatened side.
Everton under Sean Dyche have been transformed into a very organized side, a massive improvement from their days under Frank Lampard earlier this season. Dyche has a big job on his hand and has performed admirably so far, steering the Toffees out of the bottom three with big wins over league leaders Arsenal and Brentford. Their last league game came against Tottenham Hotspurs in an entertaining 1-1 draw. Everton were reduced to 10 men in the second half, with Abdoulaye Doucoure receiving his marching orders after making contact with Harry Kane and hitting him in the face. Toffees defender Michael Keane then suddenly found himself at the focal point of the chaos that reigned in the following minutes, as he gave away a penalty just a few minutes after the red card. Spurs converted the penalty with ease, but suffered a blow as substitute Lucas Moura received a red card for a rash challenge on Keane.
It made for a tense climax to the game as the Toffees gave everything to equalize the score. Michael Keane then went from zero to hero as a last minute wonder strike beat Hugo Lloris and gave Everton a well deserved point. Sean Dyche has restored the lost belief of Evertonians that they can survive the relegation battle for a second season in a row. They are currently in a good position, but face a tricky run-in to the season and it will be interesting to see how they cope with it, starting with Man United on Saturday.
WHEN & WHERE?
Date: Saturday, 8th April 2023.
Time: 12.30 pm BST.
Venue: Old Trafford, Manchester.
Referee: Michael Oliver.
Assistants: Stuart Burt, Simon Bennett.
Fourth official: Graham Scott.
VAR: Paul Tierney.
Assistant VAR: Steven Meredith.
Manchester United suffered an injury blow in their last game as fullback Luke Shaw was substituted early in the game and he left the pitch clutching his hamstring. There is no confirmation on his injury and it may well have been a precaution substitution, but the Englishman is not expected to feature on Saturday. Midfielder Christian Eriksen is edging ever closer to a return to action, with Erik ten Hag confirming that the Dane had returned to group training. The manager refused to rule him out of contention and his condition may be assessed before the game. Forward Anthony Martial made a second appearance from the bench after returning from a two-month injury layoff, with the manager suggesting he is not yet fully match fit yet. With good minutes under his belt, the Frenchman may be in contention to start on Saturday. Winger Alejandro Garnacho and midfielder Donny van de Beek will continue to be on the treatment table, while Casemiro will miss the last game of his four-match ban.
Everton have no new injuries in their squad, which will be music to the ears of Sean Dyche. However, he will be without a very key player in midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure, after he received a straight red card in their Monday night draw against Spurs. Former Man United player and Academy product James Garner could be in line to replace Doucoure, and it will be interesting to see who Dyche selects, with Tom Davies also available. Striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin is set to miss out through injury.
A game with lot at stake, Manchester United and Everton both want the three points desperately. A win would see Everton climb as thirteenth, 12th even, if they win by a margin of more than three goals. For Manchester United it is a chance to get ahead of Newcastle United and keep the pressure on the Geordies who are level on points. With the Magpies not kicking-off until later that evening, the Red Devils have a great opportunity of rising to third.
When Erik ten Hag was appointed by Man United, one of the first things he aimed to do was to return Old Trafford to its former intimidating self, that had been lost in the past couple years. Last season United had just 10 wins at home. This season, ten Hag has focused on getting their home advantage back and has already equaled last season’s tally of 10 wins at home. United are averaging 2.36 points per game at home, in stark contrast to the 1.86 of last season. Furthermore, the Mancunians have conceded only 8 goals at home all season, the lowest in the league, and far from the abysmal 22 goals conceded last season. The Red Devils are making Old Trafford their own once again, and the other teams are once again dreading making the trip to the iconic arena.
Everton have all the more reason to worry, given their problems this year, combined with their away record. 1 win, 6 draws and 7 losses in 14 away games so far this season is fourth-worst in the league. They have conceded far too many goals away from home and need to improve on it soon. They have to play 4 more away games this season apart from Saturday’s tie, and an improvement on their away record is desperately required, in their quest for survival.
An intriguing tie nonetheless, Man United vs Everton has provided some classic entertainment over the years. It is bound to be a feisty clash and should be a good one to start the weekend with.
Back again on the scoresheet on Wednesday night after a three-game drought in the league, Marcus Rashford made it 28 goals for the season. Playing in the central striker position, in place of the regular Wout Weghorst who was dropped to the bench, the Englishman gave the Bees’ defense all sorts of troubles. The 25-year-old is very comfortable playing at home in front of the Old Trafford faithful, as is evident from his stats. His strike against Brentford was his 15th goal in the league and his 12th at home. Rashford is having a scorcher of a season and his pace, dribbling and skills on the balls have proved to be a headache for all defenses across the league. In a United team that is facing a few scoring issues, Rashford is the shining light and has been leading the charge all season. Everton has a leaky defense and the Wythenshaw born lad will be eager to exploit it.
Dyche’s Mr. Dependable, James Tarkowski has been a favorite of the coach since their Burnley days. As a result, it was natural that Tarkowski would keep his place in the lineup when the former Burnley manager was appointed by Everton. He has not always been at his best in an Everton defense that needs massive improvements, but he has shown great flashes of his brilliance at times. With Everton struggling to create decent attacking chances consistently, they have come to depend on set-pieces to score goals. Tarkowski has been a constant threat from set pieces, and was the same against Spurs on Monday night, winning a lot of aerial duels. He has put in solid displays at the back in the last two games against tough opposition, and will be crucial if the Toffees want to keep out the fluid Mancunian attack.
Manchester United predicted lineup vs Everton: David de Gea; Diogo Dalot, Raphael Varane, Lisandro Martinez, Tyrell Malacia; Scott McTominay, Marcel Sabitzer; Antony, Bruno Fernandes, Jadon Sancho; Marcus Rashford.
Everton predicted lineup vs Manchester United: Jordan Pickford; Seamus Coleman, Michael Keane, James Tarkowski, Ben Godfrey; Alex Iwobi, James Garner, Idrissa Gueye, Amadou Onana, Dwight McNeil; Demarai Gray.