Manchester United - Everton Preview: Toffees hoping to end the season strongly, despite the cup being on their minds

Should the Toffees avoid defeat at Old Trafford it would set a new club record of nine straight Premier League matches unbeaten away from home.

Manchester United - Everton Preview: Toffees hoping to end the season strongly, despite the cup being on their minds
Everton take on Manchester United at 16:00 (BST) on Sunday 3 April. (Image: VAVEL)

Everton take on Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday hoping to begin an exciting climax to the season after another disappointing and frustrating campaign.

The trip to Manchester is the first of nine remaining league games for the Blues, who also have an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley to look forward to. Should the Toffees avoid defeat on Sunday it would set a new club record of nine successive Premier League matches unbeaten on the road.

Head-to-head

After winning four of their first 40 Premier League meetings against Manchester United, Everton have a great recent record against the Red Devils. The Blues have won four of the past seven league meetings, but they haven't enjoyed visiting Old Trafford, taking the spoils just once in their last 22 attempts in the league.

Manchester United recorded a 2-1 victory in the corresponding fixtures last season and Louis van Gaal's side were also 3-0 winners when they made the trip to Goodison Park last November.

Chris Smalling and Romelu Lukaku battle for the ball when the sides last met in October. | Photo: Getty Images
Chris Smalling and Romelu Lukaku battle for the ball when the sides last met in October. | Photo: Getty Images

Everton hoping to return to winning ways

Roberto Martinez said that the latest international break came at the wrong time for the club after a disappointing 2-0 home defeat to Arsenal last time out in the league. The Blues boss would have wanted nothing more than to get back on the training ground and work with the players. Instead, the bulk of his squad joined up with their respective national sides.

Martinez will be hoping his side can return to winning ways as the Toffees enter a crucial period to the end of the season as the pressure continues to build on the Everton boss. The Blues are currently 12th in the league and find themselves just 12 points clear of the relegation zone and 13 points behind fourth-placed Manchester City after another largely frustrating season.

There is a general consensus that Everton should be doing better than they are, especially considering they have the exciting talents of Romelu Lukaku, Ross Barkley and John Stones. However, Lukaku has spoken about his desire of playing in the Champions League next season casting doubt over his Everton future. The Toffees must show between now and the end of the season why the Belgian and other key players should stay at the club and a victory over one of his rumoured pursuiters would certainly be a start.

Roberto Martinez insists he does not fear losing his best players in the summer. | Photo: Getty Images
Roberto Martinez insists he does not fear losing his best players in the summer. | Photo: Getty Images

Lukaku will be hoping to continue his rich vein of scoring form and add to his 25 goal tally in all competitons this season. The 22-year-old has scored six goals in his last seven appearances for Everton in all competitions and he is one of only four players to score a hat-trick against Manchester United in the Premier League, along with Dirk Kuyt, David Bentley and Samuel Eto'o.

A big factor in Everton's struggles this season has been their home record, with the Toffees collecting just 16 points from 16 matches at Goodison Park. Their home form is in contrast to their strong away record. The Toffees have lost only once on their travels in the league all season, with that defeat coming at Arsenal back in October. Should the Toffees avoid defeat on Sunday it would set a new club record of nine successive Premier League matches unbeaten on the road.

The opposition

Similar to Everton, inconsistency has plagued Manchester United's season. Each time they look to have turned a corner Louis van Gaal's side have suffered a damaging defeat, mounting the pressure on the Dutchman.

However, Roberto Martinez expects to face a Manchester United side riding high on confidence after a battling derby triumph over rivals Manchester City ahead of the international break. Marcus Rashford's strike proved to be the only goal of the game at the Etihad Stadium and saw United move to within a point of their fourth-placed neighbours.

For all their struggles this season, Manchester United have only been beaten twice at Old Trafford in the league and they have the best defensive record on home soil - conceding just seven times in 14 matches. Louis van Gaal's side are looking to record a fourth successive home victory for the first time since a six-match streak in April last year.

Marcus Rashford celebrates after becoming the youngest player in Premier League history to score in a Manchester derby. | Photo: Getty Images
Marcus Rashford celebrates after becoming the youngest player in Premier League history to score in a Manchester derby. | Photo: Getty Images

Team news

Everton defender John Stones is fit for Sunday's match after recovering from a minor knock sustained during England's 2-1 friendly defeat to the Netherlands in midweek. Kevin Mirallas is available after suspension and Bryan Oviedo is fully fit after a chest infection, but Gareth Barry serves the final game of a two-match ban.

Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney will miss the game against his former club as he continues to recover from a knee injury that has kept him out for the past two months. Midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger is likely to be out for the rest of the season after picking up a knee ligament injury whilst away on international duty for Germany. The Red Devils have doubts over the fitness of Ander Herrara, Phil Jones and Ashley Young.