Super Sunday this week brings us two great matches with Leicester taking on Southampton in the lunchtime kick off and Manchester United hosting Everton later in the day. With the remarkable Premier League season we’re experiencing one could argue that the Foxes are entitled to the headlines, but United vs Everton is always a feisty encounter and one which should get the pulses racing on Sunday afternoon.
There’s more at stake for Louis van Gaal and United than there is for Everton in this one, with the Dutchman and his team in a battle for Champions League positions, while Roberto Martinez and the Toffees are liable to be more focused on the impending FA Cup semi-final. However, that Wembley date could well be with Manchester United if they can get past West Ham in the quarter final replay, so this game will be played as something of a dress rehearsal as far as Everton are concerned.
There is little love lost between the two sides in any case, and any punters expecting United to pick up a routine victory could be sorely disappointed come Sunday evening.
Old Trafford Troubles
By their own very high standards it has been a disastrous season at Old Trafford, with United knocked out of the group stage of the Champions League, before a humiliating defeat to Liverpool in the Europa League. They are currently just a point behind local rivals Manchester City in the race for 4th spot in the league, but it has been the manner of performances which have frustrated the faithful as much as the lack of results.
Injuries have played a key part in the lacklustre season, but many fans are indifferent to van Gaal’s slow, methodical brand of football, having been brought up on Sir Alex Ferguson’s high tempo attacking style. It’s no secret that the Old Trafford hierarchy are courting a certain Portuguese manager and it remains to be seen if van Gaal’s short reign will be extended beyond the summer. That in itself (as Man City and Manuel Pellegrini have discovered in recent weeks) can easily undermine a squad who know they will have a new man at the helm next year.
No longer the fortress it once was, Man United have only won six of the last thirteen games at their famous stadium. A closer look at the results points further to their struggles, as those wins have come against Watford, Arsenal, Midtjylland (Europa), Stoke, Swansea and Sheffield United (FA Cup). They’ve been held to draws on home turf by Liverpool, West Ham (league and cup), Chelsea and PSV, while they’ve suffered embarrassing defeats to Norwich and Southampton.
The general +100 about United winning this game is not for the faint-hearted.
Everton Enjoy Away Days
One of the reasons they can be opposed is Everton’s incredible away record this season. The Toffees have only lost once on their travels since the start of the campaign – a 2-1 away defeat at Arsenal in October. They’ve won 5 and drawn 7 of their other 12 away league games, and are more than capable of snatching at least a point here and denting United’s top four chances.
Despite an improved style of play under Roberto Martinez, Everton have become rather inconsistent under the Spaniard this term. They’ve recently put in some outstanding performances such as the 2-0 win over Chelsea in the FA Cup, but they’ve been equally as capable of putting in some shockers too, such as the 0-2 home defeat to Arsenal in their last league game. Most of the issues have come at home and their defensive frailties were exposed by West Ham in the previous league fixture when a 2-0 lead was quickly turned into a 3-2 defeat by the marauding Hammers.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Everton have gained more points (22) on the road than they have at home (16), and they do seem to be better suited to playing away where they can hit teams on the break.
Manchester United are still without Ashley Young, Phil Jones, Wayne Rooney, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Luke Shaw. That means van Gaal is likely to continue with the youngsters Lingard, Martial and Rashford who have served him so well in recent games. It’s a measure of how far they’ve fallen that Martial was regarded as one for the future when he signed last summer, but now is regarded as a first-team regular with Rashford taking on the mantle of new kid on the block. United may have a glittering history of bringing young players through, but the over-reliance on that youthful trio is not a long-term proposition for a side of their magnitude.
Everton meanwhile are without Gareth Barry, Bryan Oviedo and Stephen Pienaar, but otherwise can name a full team, including John Stones who performed with credit for England at Wembley on Tuesday. Romelu Lukaku scored for Belgium in Portugal during the week, and his goal record for Everton this season has again been superb. He can be a thorn in Man Utd’s side here and a make-shift back four will find him very difficult to deal with.
With United’s patchy form against better-than-average sides at Old Trafford, and Everton’s outstanding away record, the value bet has to be Everton or Draw, with Bet365 offering -118 about the double chance.
The Toffees are good value to get on the scoresheet and Manchester United haven’t managed to score more than once in any of their last six games. Correct score punters could do much worse than take the +600 being offered by Bet365, BetVictor and William Hill about this game ending in a 1-1 draw.
Everton or Draw Double Chance
Sunday 3rd April, 16:00 GMT