Sat two points behind the Premier League leaders, Chelsea, this Saturday sees Manchester United attempt to close that early season gap by venturing to Goodison Park to take on an Everton side, managed by David Moyes, who have yet to register a Premier League win this season.
With an under-fire Wayne Rooney set to return to his old stomping ground the fixture carries that little bit of extra spice with the Everton faithful, especially those in the Gwladys Street end, sure to use this opportunity to raise the roof and attempt to give Wayne an uncomfortable time as possible.
What makes it an even more enticing fixture is that it`s being shown by Sky Sports who will be rubbing their hands in delight at the prospect of a bumper audience tuning in to see exactly what happens, but could there be a twist in this tale? We`ll have to wait and see!
Everton haven`t started the season well, having only taken one point from their three games so far. Phil Neville, likely to miss the encounter with an injured foot, but a player who made 386 appearances for Manchester United, wants to use this fixture to get back to winning ways and repeat the 3-1 win they had over us last year and has remarked,
“I am confident a big win is just around the corner and they don`t come much bigger than Manchester United. For us to beat them like we did last year we have to go out and show no fear.”
Sir Alex, speaking at his pre-match press conference on Friday morning, appeared to be keen to lay the ghost of last season, commenting,
“We know the dangers of Everton. We got slaughtered by them last season, well and truly beaten.”
“The atmosphere is always good there. It`s a hard place to go, but it`s also a fantastic place to go and we`ve got a good record there.”
That away defeat, incidentally, was our last away league defeat, lets hope that Phil Neville doesn`t get his wish and that it`s us that takes all three points this Saturday lunchtime.
Everton Team News:
David Moyes will be grateful that his side has started the season with a relatively complete squad compared to last season when he had a smattering of top names out with serious injuries.
The Everton squad boasts a smattering of ex-United players with Phil Neville, Tim Howard and Luis Saha springing to mind. Howard is the only one likely to feature as both Saha and Neville have injury problems with Saha picking u a knock whilst on international duty with France in midweek.
United will need to be aware of the havoc Mikel Arteta and Tim Cahill can wreak whilst the Belgian international Fellaini could provide the competitive edge in midfield. Jack Rodwell, a rumoured target for United, is also missing through injury and is likely to be out for some time with an ankle knock. Others also not available for selection are Anichebe and Yakubu out with knee and calf injuries respectively.
One rumour published in a leading tabloid today (Thursday) has implied that David Moyes may shake up a forward line that hasn`t done the business so far this season (what does he expect though gambling on Beckford?) by playing Cahill and Fellaini as a strike pair.
Player to watch: Tim Howard
An ex-United keeper who fled to Everton in search of regular first team football. I always thought he was a decent keeper and on his day he can be as good as anyone around. With Edwin van der Sar approaching the veteran stage Howard could still do a decent job for us. Let`s hope that come Saturday he doesn`t produce one of those performances out of the hat that frustrates us and deprives us of the three points we need.
Manchester United Team News:
Sir Alex will be keen for his side to get back into the swing of things following the international break. He`ll also be hoping that nobody returns from international action with an injury likely to keep them out of contention.
Unavailable for selection last time out were Rio Ferdinand, Anderson and Owen Hargreaves. Since then the first two have had a run out with the reserves and there is a chance that one or the other could make a welcome return this weekend.
Out of contention though are Owen Hargreaves and Michael Carrick with Carrick added to the injury list with an Achilles problem.
Once again Sir Alex will be looking towards his golden oldies of Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs to produce the goods. With a Champions League fixture coming up very soon Sir Alex might be tempted to rest one of them. If it is Scholes it`ll be purely because he`s in such a hot run of form that Sir Alex wants him to be razor sharp for European action.
A resting of Scholes could leave the door open for a starting place for Anderson or Darren Gibson, although that remains to be seen. Up front it`d normally be a question of who partners Rooney but could Sir Alex pull a flanker here and rest Rooney considering the turbulent few days he`s experienced in his personal life? Now wouldn`t that be received well on Merseyside?
But with Michael Owen, Dimitar Berbatov and Javier Hernandez all capable of doing the job it is an option that might appeal to the boss.
What do you think?
Player to watch: Nemanja Vidic
There`s an outside chance that Vidic could be playing alongside his normal defensive partner Rio Ferdinand, but if not this lad will still give a display that will show why he`s rated as one of the best centre backs in Europe.
Match Facts & Stats
Saturday will be the 184th time these two sides have met, the record currently gives United the slight edge with 79 victories to the 64 of Everton with 40 of those games ending all square.
Last season, at Goodison, Everton beat United 3-1 registering their first win over United in 10 matches. That defeat was the last time United have been beaten in an away Premier League fixture.
Whilst United have not lost away form home in the Premier League since that 3-1 reverse at Goodison, it`s also worth noting that Everton have not been beaten at home since November when local rivals Liverpool beat them 2-0
Martin Atkinson will be the man with the whistle ably supported by his two assistants running the line – Peter Kirkup and Mick McDonough with Michael Jones fulfilling the fourth official duties.
Trips to Goodison are never easy. The rivalry between the two clubs, despite us giving them first choice on so many of our surplus players, will ensure that it will be a close encounter. David Moyes (possibly a candidate to be our next manager) will have his side well organized and sticking to a game-plan. Sir Alex will be hoping that his side doesn`t drop any more points, especially with Chelsea looking as if they have an away banker at Upton Park this Saturday. If we can stamp our style on the game and silence the Goodison faithful early on then we could ease over the line by a couple of goals but I`m leaning towards this being settled by only one goal in a tight, tense and pensive affair.
Two tantalizing fixtures await Manchester united after this one. On Tuesday we begin our Champions League campaign with a visit from Glasgow Rangers, kick off is at 19:45 and next Sunday we welcome Liverpool to Old Trafford for a Premier League encounter that kicks off at 13:30 hours.