This may not be the biggest Manchester-Liverpool clash in the Premier League this weekend but it will still have an impact on the unfolding title race. Manchester United must remain on the coattails of Manchester City if they are to prevent the next few months becoming a procession for Pep Guardiola’s side.
City travel to face Liverpool on Sunday, and an away win would take the Manchester club 10 points ahead of the reigning champions with a game still in hand, so United will want to keep their own title challenge in tact by defeating Everton at Goodison Park.
United put two successive disappointing games behind them by thumping Southampton 9-0 on Tuesday to equal their highest ever Premier League victory. Having settled for an underwhelming draw against Arsenal and suffered a shock defeat at the hands of Sheffield United the previous week, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side regathered momentum with their emphatic win.
It means that United have 44 points, three less than City but have played a game extra. No doubt the victory over Southampton will offer a confidence boost, especially for players who had been shy in front of goal in recent weeks.
Solskjaer got want he wanted from his “nasty” side with a relentless performance in midweek which was in contrast to the more tight affairs that they have played out recently, including draws with Liverpool, City and Arsenal and also narrow wins over Fulham and Burnley.
Meanwhile, Everton also arrive at this northwest tussle on the back of an impressive win away at Leeds United. Carlo Ancelotti’s team have lacked consistency in recent weeks with two wins, two defeats and a draw from their last five league games.
Ancelotti was left disappointed by his side’s poor showing at home to Newcastle United last weekend, which they lost 2-0, and offered the opinion that his players were ‘lazy’ and must express their characters more on the pitch.
He will have been quietly impressed by the midweek response at Leeds but will nevertheless acknowledge that taking on United at the moment is a tough ask given how any number of their players can conjure a moment of match-winning brilliance.
Everton have not kept a clean sheet in any of their past five league outings which has placed a greater burden on their attacking players to often dig them out of trouble. Not having the option of starting a consistent forward line has hampered Ancelotti’s attempt to challenge for a top-four place, but there still is plenty of time left in the campaign for them to rally.
Solskjaer will be hard pressed to change the lineup that dismantled Southampton in midweek but such is the depth of United’s squad that he can afford to rotate, especially in forward positions.
The front four of Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford on the right and left flanks respectively with Bruno Fernandes in the No.10 role behind Edinson Cavani certainly looks the most balanced option. But the United manager may opt to start with Paul Pogba or Anthony Martial, who scored two off the bench on Tuesday.
As far as the visitors are concerned, their main injury worry is goalkeeper Jordan Pickford who missed the trip to Leeds with a rib injury. However, the performance of deputy Robin Olsen suggested that Everton could do with starting the Swede for a run of games given the recent gaffes of first choice Pickford.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s goal against Leeds was his first in the Premier League since December 5 and Ancelotti will hope that his star striker rediscovers the efficient form that saw him net nine in his first six games of the season in all competitions.
James Rodriguez remained on the bench during midweek while deadline day signing Josh King from Bournemouth got his first minutes in an Everton shirt having come on as a late substitute but the Norwegian is unlikely to start against the club at which he started his career.
Man Utd: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; McTominay, Fred; Greenwood, Fernandes, Rashford; Cavani.
Everton: Olsen; Holgate, Mina, Godfrey, Digne; Doucoure, Andre Gomes; Sigurdsson, James Rodriguez, Richarlison; Calvert-Lewin.
When & where to watch
The game takes place at 8pm on Saturday evening at Goodison Park. It is available to be viewed on Sky Sports in the UK.
The game is also available on the radio via talkSport and, of course, you can follow the action right here on VAVEL UK.