Super Sunday kicks off at Old Trafford on Sunday as Everton look to build on an impressive 3-1 victory in Duncan Ferguson’s first game in charge of the Toffees.
They come up against the Red Devils, who have won their last two in the league, and will be looking to kick on themselves after a fantastic away win at the Etihad, courtesy of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial’s goals last Saturday evening. AZ Alkmaar were brushed aside on Thursday night, as Mason Greenwood shone with a double, and has given Ole Gunnar Solksjaer a much-needed selection headache ahead of the game.
Everton lifted themselves out of the drop with victory over Chelsea, courtesy of goals from Richarlison and a double from Dominic Calvert-Lewin, but they are still in a perilous position give the tight nature of the league, sat just two points clear of Southampton in 18th. Interim boss Ferguson will be desperate for another result to boost his chances of securing the job full time, however a trip to Old Trafford is no easy task.
A typically feisty affair, it has the makings of the cracker, with Ferguson revitalising and firing up Everton last weekend. If more of the same is on display against United, it should make for an entertaining clash.
Everton opted for a back-to-basics 4-4-2 in victory against Chelsea, and it proved to be effective, particularly against a back four who could be easily bullied. Dominic Calvert-Lewin shone with two goals, and proved a particular handful for the Blues’ backline, with Andreas Christensen and Kurt Zouma struggling to cope. Partnering Richarlison up front, Everton opted to move the ball from back to front quickly, looking to utilise the long balls which could bring their attackers into play. This also allowed them to expose the flanks of Chelsea on the counter, as Alex Iwobi and Theo Walcott move up quickly in support and as a result proved an effective partnership up top.
It will be no surprise to see this direct approach once again from Ferguson’s side, however United are arguably much better equipped to deal with this threat, with Harry Maguire in particular showing he is more than capable of dealing with the direct play. It is worth noting Sheffield United had joy in using this approach against United, but this was against a back five, and individual errors let United down that day, notably Phil Jones for the opener. Scott McTominay’s return in the past two games has offered the Red Devils a boost, and his aerial ability is a plus, offering further protection to the back four. The improved form of Fred alongside McTominay should help guard the back four, as United’s midfield has shown to be much better balanced in recent weeks, helped by the return to form of Jesse Lingard in the attacking midfield role.
Eveton opted to sit deep and allow Chelsea a large volume of the ball, pressing when they moved into the Everton half, and this saw Kurt Zouma complete 100 passes and Andreas Christensen 75. A similar approach will be expected once again on Sunday, and this means that there will be added importance for Maguire and Lindelof on the ball, as I would expect them to see plenty of it. Chelsea’s midfield struggled to drop deep and utilise the ball in these positions, and it shows the importance of McTominay and Fred’s role on Sunday, coupled with that of Jesse Lingard in front, to help link the play.
With Everton opting for a 4-4-2, it leaves Lingard free to roam and find spaces between the lines, and if United are to break Everton down, they will be reliant upon Lingard finding these gaps. The midfield two of Morgan Schneiderlin and Gylfi Sigurdsson still feels as if there is a chance to create around them, and Lingard could drift out wide to create overloads and target the full backs, something Chelsea were able to have joy at times with, particularly down the Everton right.
Theo Walcott’s lack of defensive work will certainly excite Marcus Rashford and Luke Shaw, and coupled with Lingard drifting wide, they should have a lot of joy creating chances down this flank. Lucas Digne is an injury doubt at left back for Everton, and this is another huge worry, and opens up an interesting angle of attack for Solksjaer’s side. Although Alex Iwobi was excellent in his defensive work on Saturday, Digne’s replacement is the 35-year-old Leighton Baines, who made his first league appearance of the season for the final eight minutes against Chelsea. It would be no surprise to see a rusty performance from the English veteran, and need extra protection from Iwobi, and this opens up a number of interesting betting angles for the game.
The counter attack will be important for Everton, and there will be space left in behind the United backline, particularly down the right, and as Everton did with their opener against Chelsea, they could opt to target this flank. When being asked to take the game to the opposition, Rashford can often leave the left back exposed defensively, and this is an area that Djibril Sidibe will be able to exploit. As shown by Richarlison’s opener, he is willing to move beyond Walcott on the right wing and look to get crosses into the box, and if Rashford leaves his full back exposed, it is an area Ferguson will look to target. It can often drag across one of the central midfielders to cover as a result, and with Everton looking to overload the box with aerial threat and onrushing midfielders from deep, it means that they could get opportunities from crosses, something United need to be aware of.
It should be a lively affair, especially with Ferguson still in charge of Everton, so where does this place the betting angles?
Michael Oliver is taking charge of this game, and with a record of 80 yellow cards in 19 games this season, the card markets do take appeal. With Ferguson firing up his Everton side, it would be no surprise to see plenty of challenges flying in, and does open up two angles of interest on the card markets.
Firstly, a card before the 31st minute at 5/6 (Bet365) stands out. Everton were keen to close down Chelsea in Ferguson’s first game, and it would be no surprise to see them doing the same once again. Tricky players like Rashford and James will be susceptible to the early fouls as the Toffees look to unsettle the home side, and Michael Oliver has a reputation as one of the more card happy referees.
Taking that into account, and the counter attacking threat of Manchester United, Everton to have more cards than United, available at 5/6 (Bet365), also stands out, especially if Everton are forced to chase the game. If tempted on the individual card markets, Leighton Baines stands out at 7/1 (BetVictor), given his lack of playing time, and the fact he will be up against the tricky, pacey Welsh winger Dan James.
Moving away from the card markets, I do think United have enough to upkeep their recent form, and the Everton midfield still feels like it can be overrun, even with their increased energy and tenacity off the ball. The worries down the flanks, coupled with the more balanced United midfield, makes the Red Devils an appealing option, and available at 6/5 (Bet365), Manchester United to win and over 1.5 goals stands out.