Old Trafford, Manchester
April 23, 2011; 5:15 P.M. IST – Live on ESPN
Manchester United host Everton in what could turn out to be a crucial match in the title race. With Arsenal and Chelsea up next for the Red Devils, they need to win the game in order to keep themselves clear of the two London sides before they face off against the two teams. Everton, themselves have been in good form recently and would do their best to provide another twist to this already unpredictable title race. The last time these two sides met in September at Goodison Park, Everton snatched a draw from the jaws of defeat as they scored two injury time goals to come back from 1-3 down to level the game.
United come into this game after a rough last week as they lost to Man City in the FA cup semifinal and failed to win at St. James’ Park in midweek which has kept Chelsea and Arsenal in the title race. With the next two fixtures against these two teams coming up, the game against Everton has turned out to be a must-win game for Sir Alex’s men. The Red Devils would be hoping to keep up their excellent home record which has seen them gather 46 out of 48 points at Old Trafford this season.
Everton, on the other hand have gathered momentum in the last few weeks and are in excellent form. The Toffees have won five of the last seven games in the league while sharing the points in the other two. However, despite their good run they find themselves in seventh position due to their poor start to the season. With Man City due to finish fourth, Stoke are likely to take the second Europa League place from England thus leaving Everton with nothing to play for. But the chance to disrupt United’s title chances at Old Trafford provides enough motivation for any team to give their cent percent into the game.
Team News And Tactical Brief
Dimitar Berbatov is doubtful for the game with a groin strain and is going to face a late fitness test before the manager takes a call on his inclusion in the squad. Darren Fletcher is back in training but still is 10 days away from first team action and is thereby going to miss the game. However, there is some good news for Sir Alex as Rafael is fit and available to face the Toffees. Paul Scholes misses the game due to suspension as this comes as a second game of a three match suspension for being sent off in the Manchester Derby. Hargreaves and Lindegaard continue to be long term absentees for the home side.
It would be interesting to see what kind of team is put out by Sir Alex for this crucial game. Ferdinand could be rested again with the Schalke game in mind especially with Chris Smalling proving to be a more than able deputy. However, Rafael could be included in the lineup as he provides a more attacking option going forward from the right back position than John O ‘Shea. Vidic, Evra and Van Der Sar are likely to complete the back five.
In the midfield, Ryan Giggs could also be rested after playing the full ninety minutes at St. James’ Park. Valencia is likely to take his place which means Nani could start on the left hand side as he did against Fulham a couple of weeks ago. Carrick is expected to be the deep lying midfielder with Anderson alongside him in central midfield. However, the Brazilian would be expected to put on a much improved performance from the Newcastle game where he started for the first time after a long injury lay-off. With Berbatov likely to be sidelined, Rooney-Hernandez partnership would once again be employed by Sir Alex with Rooney dropping off from time to time to make a five man midfield for United.
Probable Starting XI: Van Der Sar, Rafael, Smalling, Vidic, Evra, Nani, Anderson, Carrick, Valencia, Hernandez, Rooney
David Moyes is having an injury crisis at the moment, but despite that he has done very well as his side has won 5 of the last 7 games. John Heitinga is the latest addition to the injury list after being substituted very early in the game against Blackburn with a hamstring problem. He will be assessed on the morning of the game as would be Tim Cahill who has been sidelined due to a foot injury for a past few weeks. However, ex-Red Louis Saha will be missing from the trip to Old Trafford along with Jose Baxter and first choice players Mikel Arteta and Marouane Fellaini.
Thankfully for David Moyes, the injury bug has not hit the team’s defence and hence the manager has a settled back five which is expected to start the game. Baines would once again be the crucial weapon for the away side as the full back already has 11 assists to his name this season. In the midfield, speculated United transfer target Jack Rodwell is expected to take the place of injured John Heitinga. He will be partnered by Phil Neville – who played 386 games for United before being transfered to Everton, while Bilyaletdinov and Coleman would take their places on the wings. Leading the attack would be Jermaine Beckford, who scored the winner for Leeds United at Old Trafford in last year’s FA Cup, and Leon Osman. The injury crisis at Everton has forced Moyes to play Osman in an uncustomary position up top in partnership with Beckford, the duo performed admirably against Blackburn Rovers however the United back four are expected to provide a sterner test with captain Vidic marshalling his troops.
Probable Starting XI: Howard, Hibbert, Jagielka, Distin, Baines, Coleman, Neville, Rodwell, Bilyaletdinov, Osman, Beckford
Key Match Facts
- United have not conceded a goal in the first half at Old Trafford this season.
- Everton have scored in all but one match since the turn of the year.
- In a match at Old Trafford in 2001, both United and Everton failed to hit the target. United won 1-0 courtesy an own goal from Steve Watson
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
It has to be him in a match between the two sides. Sir Alex did not play Rooney in the reverse fixture between these sides in September to save him from the boo boys as his sex scandal broke out just before the game. The ex-Evertonian would be keen to make amends and could very well be the deciding factor in this game.
Manchester United 2-1 Everton
It will be a close game, but United’s experience at this stage of the season will help them carve out a much needed win which will take them ever closer to the title.
TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST