Most grieving Blues would have been too aled to notice motd last Saturday and witness the heinous Garth Crooks bizarre attempt to sauce up a sterile title race by saying ‘Everton have done well at United in the past’. Well Garth, we have lost on all of our last 5 trips, won 0 of our last 18 visits including 15 defeats with just 1 goal in our last 8 hours of action. Robert Warzycha (left) was on target last time we triumphed there in 3-0 win in 1992. Yikes!
2. Last Season
Last season was a familiar tale of woe for the Toffees with United dominating the ball (60% v 40%) and deservedly taking the win on the way to the their record breaking 19th title.
Crucially in the first half we won just 2 out of 11 aerial challenges in the Man Utd half (18%) compared with 8 out of 16 (50%) following the introduction of Anichebe and Cahill i.e when we did get the ball forward it didn’t stick in the first half. Anichebe in particular did well when coming on, winning 4/4 of his aerial duels and offering more in behind than the feeble Beckford had done in the first half.
United for the most part looked to exploit -as the RS did last week - Baines (circled) attacking surges by playing long passes into the space he vacates. Our average position visual (above) from the game shows the direction they played the ball with Valencia and Rooney doubling up in that pocket of space. The cross for the winning goal came after Distin had been dragged into this zone covering Baines.
3. United Selection & Strategy
United under Ferguson are great architects of executing a ‘stretch and compress’ Ajax approach to closing and exploiting space. This basically means that when we attack they will contract and press as a unit, constricting the space we have to operate in. When United win the ball back they will use the wings and make the pitch as big as possible to exploit the space. Ferguson has always built sides on pace down the flanks and this is where they will attack us. Carrick (83% completion from his 186 long passes this season) and Scholes (a winner on all 9 prem games he has started post retirement) will sit in midfield and ping the balls out to Valencia and Young on the flanks. Both United’s wingers are in uber productive form; Valencia is the top flights’ leading assist maker with 13 whilst the vile AshleyYoung has won even more penalties in the last 2 seasons (7) than the rat from across the park.
Rooney will look to drop deep and pick up pockets of space between our defensive and midfield lines although his record against us would give you the impression he doesn’t like inflicting misery on the club he supports given he has just 2 goals in 13 apps against us and has never scored against us at Old Trafford. Alongside him, Welbeck has been his first choice partner this season but given our defensive strategy and the few clear cut chances the game will create the more clinical Hernandez will get the nod for this one I think.
I’d imagine the sides would line up something like this…
4. Toffee Line-up and Approach
As per the above graphic I wouldn’t imagine there would be too many surprises in terms of Moyes selection and we will look to keep things tight from the off. Pienaar should come in for Magaye and will probably line up in front of Phil Neville with Baines injured unless Moyes decides to shift Distin across and bring in Jagielka alongside Heitinga at centre back. Royston Drenthe is still chewing over his internal suspension from the club for his off the field misdemeanours so won’t be considered although in truth it’s unlikely he would have started this one anyway.
United attack down the flanks and I’d guess Moyes approach will be to go compact and make it difficult for Taggart’s troops to play through us by forcing them to play narrow. Whoever is wide (probably Pienaar and Osman) will drop deep and let United’s full-backs have the ball, instead focusing upon cutting off the passing angles from Carrick and Scholes to Young and Valencia on the flanks.
Only Fulham matches (1.8 goals) deliver fewer combined goals than ourselves (2.3) on the road but bizarrely we haven’t been involved in a goalless draw in 66 games. Given that Utd have kept the most clean sheets in the top flight (18) and their dominant record in this fixture, 1-0 United would be the logical punt. Hernandez has been the match winner on both our last 2 games vs United (both 0-1) and Willie Hills will offer you 25/1on this. If you fancy us to bury our OT hoodoo Jelavic anytime Everton win double returns 12/1. I’ll probably go for the under 2.5 goals market which is offered at 5/4. Enjoy the game!