Manchester United will hope to enter the international break on a positive note when they welcome Everton to Old Trafford on Saturday.
The games continue to come thick and fast across Europe and in the Premier League, Gameweek 7 of the 2021/22 season will begin on Saturday. As many as six games are on show on the day, with the action kicking off at Old Trafford, where Manchester United will be playing hosts to Everton.
Manchester United have seen the feel good factor around them disappear in the past week or so. Heading into this week, the Red Devils had lost three of their last four games in all competitions, including their maiden defeat in the Premier League this season. And in the midweek fixture, it appeared as if a repeat of the same was ensuing before a late comeback ensured a 2-1 win over Villarreal.
Everton, on the other hand, have been largely consistent in the early stages of the season and are, in fact, level on points with Manchester United as well as Manchester City, Chelsea and Brighton & Hove Albion, with table-toppers Liverpool just a point ahead. Their ouster from the Carabao Cup at the hands of Queens Park Rangers remains the only other blemish for the Toffees so far this term.
The corresponding fixture last season was a roller-coaster of a fixture that saw Everton play out a 3-3 draw with Manchester United, with Dominic Calvert-Lewin scoring the equaliser with practically the last kick of the game. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer does not have any fresh roster issue hampering his preparations ahead of the visit of Everton. On Saturday, the Manchester United manager could be bereft of the services of as many as four first-team players.
The bad news is that Harry Maguire is out for a couple of weeks and will miss a second successive game due to the calf injury he sustained last weekend against Aston Villa. Apart from the Manchester United captain, Amad Diallo (hamstring) and Marcus Rashford (shoulder) remain out, although the latter is closing in on his return and could be back post the international break.
The fourth and final player whose availability is a doubt is Luke Shaw. While the Englishman has recovered from the injury he picked up last week, he is now trying to shrug off the effects of an illness and will face a late fitness test to determine his availability.
If Shaw is deemed to be unfit, Alex Telles will once again line up on the left side of the Manchester United defence, with Aaron Wan-Bissaka returning on the right flank. Telles ought to be brimming with confidence after scoring his first goal for the Red Devils and will hope to provide a marauding presence on his wing.
At the heart of the Manchester United defence, Victor Lindelof will pair up with Raphael Varane in the absence of Maguire. Meanwhile, in goal, there is no looking past David de Gea. Up ahead in midfield, Scott McTominay and Fred ought to forge a rather solid double pivot, hoping to keep a check on Demarai Gray and Abdoulaye Doucoure in particular.
With McTominay and Fred taking their places in the middle of the park, Paul Pogba will be stationed on the left wing, with Mason Greenwood taking his usual spot on the right flank, although he will have the freedom to roam around the pitch. Bruno Fernandes will reprise his usual no. 10 role, playing off of Cristiano Ronaldo.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): de Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Lindelof, Telles; McTominay, Fred; Greenwood, Bruno Fernandes, Pogba; Ronaldo
Unlike his counterpart in the Manchester United dugout, Rafael Benitez has a raft of fitness woes to contend with ahead of the trip to Old Trafford. On Saturday, the Everton manager will have to make do without five first-team players at the very least.
The major absentees for Everton remain Richarlison (knee) and Dominic Calvert-Lewin (thigh), who will only be returning after the international break. In addition, captain Seamus Coleman is also on the sidelines due to a hamstring issue while Andre Gomes (calf) and Fabian Delph (shoulder) miss out as well.
Meanwhile, Benitez is also sweating over the fitness of Alex Iwobi. The Everton boss failed to confirm whether the Nigerian international will be available to take on Manchester United, although he is likely to make the Everton starting lineup, taking up the left wing berth.
However, Anthony Gordon will be in line to start if Iwobi is not fit enough to start. On the right flank, Andros Townsend is a certainty right now, seeing as along with Demarai Gray, he is the most in-form player for Everton. The final man in attack will be Salomon Rondon, who will lead the line for the visitors against Manchester United.
The key men for Everton will be Abdoulaye Doucoure and Allan, who will have the task of stifling Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba in the creative movements. At the back, Yerry Mina and former Manchester United trainee Michael Keane will form the central defensive partnership while Ben Godfrey and Lucas Digne will be the two full-backs. In goal, Jordan Pickford picks himself.
Probable Lineup (4-4-1-1): Pickford; Godfrey, Mina, Keane, Digne; Townsend, Doucoure, Allan; Iwobi; Gray; Rondon
- Everton have won just twice in 29 Premier League trips to Old Trafford. However, the Toffees stand a chance of going unbeaten in three successive top-flight away meetings with Manchester United for the first time since 1991.
- Manchester United could go a ninth successive top-flight home game without a clean sheet for the first time since a run of 10 from September 1970 to February 1971.
- Everton have won only two of their past 42 Premier League away fixtures against teams who finished in last season’s top four.
- Manchester United’s eight most recent Premier League defeats have all come at Old Trafford. It is the longest run of home defeats without suffering an away loss in top-flight history.
- Bruno Fernandes has created an unrivalled 21 chances in the Premier League this season, with 10 coming in the defeat by Aston Villa. The Portuguese international has scored in all three Premier League appearances against Everton.
Player to Watch
Following the arrival of Raphael Varane, Victor Lindelof knows that chances are going to come at a premium for him, especially in the Premier League and the UEFA Champions League. However, with Harry Maguire sidelined for a short while, the Swede has the opportunity to make his case to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The game against Everton will be one wherein Lindelof will be eager to show that he has a lot to offer to Manchester United. And if he can inspire a rare clean sheet, Lindelof could well be in line to force his way into the reckoning for a regular berth at the heart of the Manchester United defence.
Manchester United 1-0 Everton
This is a tricky one to call. Everton have proven to be tricky customers under the wily Rafael Benitez and will be difficult to outfox for Manchester United. However, the Toffees have not been the best of travellers in the Spanish manager’s short reign, although they ought to realise that at Old Trafford, Manchester United are often there for the taking.
Having said that, Everton’s iffy away record will only buoy Manchester United further, especially after sealing a late win at home against Villarreal this week. With that in mind, The Hard Tackle predicts Cristiano Ronaldo to score the only goal of the game, with Victor Lindelof and Raphael Varane forging a solid partnership at the heart of the Manchester United defence.