Manchester United-Everton Preview
Manchester United have had time to recover ahead of their trip to Goodison Park to face Everton on Saturday.
Louis van Gaal’s United (5-1-2) were stunned 3-0 by Arsenal a fortnight ago and relieved to have the opportunity to regroup as the Premier League took a short break for the recent international fixtures.
The loss to Arsenal came on the back of three straight wins and a run of form that suggested Van Gaal may finally have implemented a distinct team shape and an attractive style of play, and the Dutchman will be keen to get back to those winning ways on Merseyside this weekend.
However, hosts Everton (3-4-1) are unbeaten in five in the league and have a steadily improving head-to-head record against the Red Devils. Roberto Martinez’s side have beaten United in three straight games at Goodison Park – without conceding a goal in any of those victories – with last season’s 3-0 scoreline the most convincing in that run.
"At home we have had good results against them recently," a confident Martinez said. "But it is fair to say United have been adjusting to changes and they have now found a settled team that has been performing really well this season.
"Saturday is another sell-out crowd and we are really looking forward to showing the best possible image of our football club and performing really well against a very good side."
The Toffees are likely to have key players returning from the international break full of confidence. Ross Barkley starred for England as they topped their international group with a perfect 30 points from 10 matches, while Romelu Lukaku started up top for the new number-one ranked side in the world as Belgium beat Israel 3-1.
Seamus Coleman should be fit for selection having started in Ireland’s 2-1 defeat to Poland on Sunday evening, while John Stones is expected to be fit despite a knee problem that kept him out of England action.
Tom Cleverley (ankle), Leighton Baines (ankle), Tony Hibbert (knee) and Steven Pienaar (hamstring) all remain sidelined.
Manchester United’s international stars had more of a mixed bag of performances during the international week. Anthony Martial impressed on his full debut for France, with former World Cup winner Bixente Lizarazu already describing the striker as a "key player".
However, Daley Blind and Memphis Depay suffered the disappointment of missing out on qualification for the European Champions as the Netherlands lost 3-2 to the Czech Republic on Tuesday evening.
The Dutch disappointment is another setback for Depay, who has only shown glimpses of his talent since joining Manchester United in the summer. However, Ajax manager Frank de Boer believes that ‘Memphis’ has what it takes to be a hit at Old Trafford after seeing the youngster finish top-scorer for PSV as they beat his Ajax side to the Eredivisie title last season.
"He has a great mentality, but still he is very young and has to know what he has to do to stay on that level or even get better – I think Van Gaal is the right person for that," De Boer said. "I think he can be a great player for Manchester United because he has everything – he has speed, he has technique, he can score goals and physically he is very strong. He normally never gets injured and for his age he has played a lot of games for PSV."
Depay and Martial are both in line to start against Everton, but Luke Shaw and Paddy McNair are out and Michael Carrick (groin), Bastian Schweinsteiger (groin), Wayne Rooney (ankle), Ander Herrera (knock) and Marcos Rojo (hamstring) are doubts.
The last team to win four consecutive home matches against United was also Everton, 29 years ago.
Striker Lukaku is the only current Premier League player to have scored a hat trick against the Red Devils (and one of only four in total), while Rooney has not scored in the last 17 away games. He also hasn’t scored at his old stomping grounds of Goodison Park in seven years.