Everton go into Saturday’s match against Manchester United having seen their early season momentum halted slightly by two stuttering away defeats. Successive losses at the hands of Southampton and Newcastle United somewhat brought Carlo Ancelotti’s team back down to earth.
Now back at Goodison Park for the first time since their derby draw with Liverpool last month, Everton hope to put their recent defeats behind them and get a positive result against United. Ancelotti previewed the encounter, gave an update on injured players and spoke about Jordan Pickford returning in goal when he spoke on Friday.
On bouncing back
Everton were second-best in their last two matches and have had injuries and suspensions to deal with. But a win on Saturday would see Everton return to the top of the Premier League table and the manager believes that must be the aim when they take to the field.
“It is a great opportunity to forget these two defeats and to stay at the top of the table,” Ancelotti said. “It is difficult because Manchester United are a strong team but we want to take this opportunity.”
Their early season form certainly made watchers-on take notice of the team that Ancelotti is building on Merseyside but the Italian is not getting too ahead of himself as the campaign is still in it’s infancy. “In this moment it is too far until the end of the season,” he added. “We have to move on from these two defeats that weren’t good to show a fighting spirit and then we will see after.”
On match against United
“We prepare the game as usual, trying to find some weaknesses that they have, that every team in the world has,” the Everton manager said. “We are sure that tomorrow will be a difficult game because they have all the qualities a team needs: creativity, power and organisation.
“It is never a good time to play United because they are a strong team with experience and quality. It is true that they have been up and down but some games they played really well. We have to expect a team with a strong motivation.”
Asked about the growing pressure on United manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Ancelotti acknowledged that it comes with the job: “In general, I have sympathy for all managers. I can say that when things are not good, there is only one person responsible. Every manager is under pressure, I can say the pressure what we have is a privilege. We have to analyse ourselves with a cold mind.”
On latest injuries
Everton will be able to welcome back James Rodriguez on Saturday after he missed the trip to Southampton with a slight injury. “He said that he’s 100 per cent but I have some doubt that he’s 100 per cent,” Ancelotti joked. “It doesn’t matter for me if he says he’s 50 per cent or whatever.” The Colombian is expected to start.
Ancelotti can also welcome back Seamus Coleman, Mason Holgate and Lucas Digne after they all missed recent games through injury or suspension. Richarlison is still serving his three-game suspension following his challenge on Thiago Alcantara in the Merseyside derby and Ancelotti addressed the fact Everton have not won any of the seven league games that the Brazilian has missed since joining the club in 2018. “Richarlison is a really important player for us and we have to break this statistic,” he said.
On Pickford starting
Pickford was rested in the defeat to Newcastle with Robin Olsen playing instead but the Everton manager confirmed that the England No.1 would start against United. “He starts, yes, no doubt,” Ancelotti confirmed. “He knows what to do tomorrow. His mentality is good. Sometimes he makes mistakes because he thinks too much so he needs to use his instincts more. On the pitch he has to be focused on what he is doing, know his limits and where is his quality.”
Everton have only kept one clean sheet in the league this season, away to Tottenham Hotspur in their opening game, and Ancelotti recognises that is an area that his team have to work on: “We are working on this. We have to defend better, I totally agree and I told the players we have to defend better. We have to improve there.
“If you can keep clean sheets, the worst is a draw! I want to keep things simple, a clean sheet is an important step to try to win a game.”