Mata The Main Man For Rooney-less United
Man United v Everton
Manchester United take on Everton at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon with both looking to prove they have genuine Champions League…
…qualification credentials this season.
United earned only their second win of the season in their last outing against West Ham. Goals from Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie in the opening 22 minutes looked to have put them on course for a routine win, but Diafra Sakho’s header before the break and a red card for Rooney on the hour mark saw Van Gaal’s side hanging on and desperately relieved to earn three points.
The Dutchman has now seen his side score nine in three games as they moved up to seventh in the Premier League table with eight points from their six games, but they have already conceded nine.
Robin van Persie has scored in each of his last two appearances, while Angel Di Maria has two in three, but Radamel Falcao is yet to get off the mark for his new club.
Following a hugely impressive campaign last time out, Everton have struggled to replicate their levels so far this season, winning just once in the Premier League. Roberto Martinez’s side have picked up just six points to date despite scoring the joint second highest number of goals in the league (12) because they’ve also conceded the most (14).
The Toffees were held to a 1-1 draw against FK Krasnodar in the Europa League on Thursday evening to extend their winless stretch to four in all competitions, although they will have been encouraged by the same scoreline in the Merseyside derby at Anfield last week, when Phil Jagielka’s late screamer earned them a point.
Steven Naismith has top scored with three goals with Romelu Lukaku, Samuel Eto’o, Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman have all scored two apiece.
The remarkable list of absentees for Van Gaal doesn’t look like shortening any time soon with skipper Rooney now suspended for three games while Tyler Blackett serves a further two-match ban.
Ander Herrera was again added to the injury list having cracked a rib against the Hammers and joins Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling and Ashley Young on the sidelines and although Michael Carrick, Phil Jones and Marouane Fellaini are getting closer to fitness they are expected to be on the bench at best on Sunday.
Everton have serious doubts over the availability of Sylvain Distin, while Kevin Mirallas and Ross Barkley are both definitely out. Martinez should be able to recall both Seamus Coleman and James McCarthy to the starting XI and Steven Pienaar could also feature.
Everton completed a famous double over United last season without conceding a goal, with the second defeat also signaling the end of former Toffees’ manager David Moyes’ brief spell in charge at Old Trafford. They’ve now won three of the past four although they beat the Red Devils just once in 12 games prior to that run.
It seems almost too obvious to suggest to take on the on both teams to score but whereas many teams would opt to tighten up when they’ve looked so vulnerable at the back, these sides just don’t look capable of doing that at the moment and so the 6/10 available on both finding the net looks a no-brainer, and certainly more worthy of an odds-on punt than a creaky United at 4/6.
It’s a big ask for Everton win after a lengthy trip to Russia though as 17/4 odds suggest so goals look the order of the day with over 3.5 worth backing at 7/5, while the same odds on Juan Mata to score anytime a decent shout as the Spaniard should replace Rooney and can prosper against a tired backline.