By Lee Savery
The weekend after the weekend we would like to forget is here and I, for one, am glad we kick-off earlier than the rest of the league.
Man United’s first league game after the demoralising defeat against Manchester City last week could not come quick enough. The suicidal second-half display showed the past desire of United team’s of old on an afternoon where they probably should have stayed back at 3-1. It wasn’t our afternoon and now we must begin the chase of our noisy neighbours with a tough to trip to Goodison Park.
Last season’s corresponding fixture was probably one the craziest games in Premier League history. With Wayne Rooney dropped in fear of his temper getting the better of him, Steven Pienaar had put Everton in front before Darren Fletcher equalised four minutes later. United then took command with two early second-half goals from Nemanja Vidic & Dimitar Berbatov. Victory looked certain until Tim Cahill made it 3-2 in the 91st minute. With United stunned, Everton launched one final attack which led to Mikel Arteta’s deflected goal. 3-3. Goodison went wild. A repeat of that result this season would seem unlikely. That was one special game that showed the quality of the Premier League.
Both teams head into this match after contrasting fortunes in the Carling Cup. Everton missed the opportunity to knock out ten man Chelsea after losing 2-1 in extra time. Leighton Baines missed a penalty in normal time which ultimately proved vital as Daniel Sturridge scored the winner. United’s much changed team, however, defeated League Two Aldershot Town with a 3-0 victory with Berbatov, Michael Owen & Antonio Valencia all scoring.
Team Selection Thoughts
Many are expecting big changes after such a poor display last weekend and changes are probably what we are going to get. Against City, we were poor defensively. Leading up to the game last week it felt like we were in for a thrashing and it came. The magnificent attacking performances of the first few games did nothing but “paper over the cracks” of a defence that was ready to crumble.
Jonny Evans’ sending off was the catalyst for an unforgivable second-half. He is avaible after sitting out the Carling Cup fixture through suspension and expect, the now fit again, Nemanja Vidic to return at the heart in defence. Decisions will have to be made on Ferdinand and Evra whose experience counted for nothing as they helped make it so easy for City to score. I am sure Sir Alex still trusts them so expect them to start on Saturday.
In midfield, we were too easily dominated last week. The usual energetic displays of Fletcher & Anderson escaped them. I also feel they lacked the creativity that we needed, especially in the first half, although Fletcher’s consolation was a beauty. Tom Cleverley returned to the team in the week and will certainly be pushing for a start. Michael Carrick will certainly be in contention too. On his day, his passing can open up any team and he will offer greater protection to United’s backline. Everton are quite a physical team and the midfield will need to be able to cope with this. Park’s energy and determination would certainly be good for us and he may replace Ashley Young, who is a doubt with a toe injury. Whatever midfield that that will line up at Goodison, I think it is about time they took control of a match because, for me, I have not seen that from our midfield all season so far. City made it look easy. This has to stop.
Considering previous visits to Goodison Park, Sir Alex likes to use the 4-3-3/4-5-1. This formation looks likely considering the recent uncertainty at the back. United have allowed more shots at their goal than any other team in the Premier League so far this season. The coaching staff will know this and I am sure it is something they will want to sort out as the season continues.
If he does pack the midfield, then it will be a tough choice between our bundle of attacking options. Valencia will be itching to start on the right after his sublime strike against Aldershot. The same could be said for Berbatov and Owen also who have so far been excluded from any action outside of the Carling Cup. Incidentally, Owen has now scored 12 goals in his last 12 Carling Cup appearances. He really deserves more chances in the team with this scoring ability.
As mentioned already, Rooney was dropped for this fixture last season as Sir Alex feared the fierce Everton crowd would get the better of his temper. I don’t expect such a drastic measure this season. In a game where the manager is looking for a reaction from his players, I think he will be more than happy to throw his talisman into this match.
If United provide us with the ‘assumed’ backlash after last week then we could be in for a torrid afternoon, however if we start well and take an early lead, anxiety may spread through your ranks. This means Moyes must start positively and exploit this and your far from strong defending at present. I don’t think your defensive midfielders have been shielding your defence well so far this season. Having said that Moyes will start with one up front and hand the initiative to United. If Rooney is playing a little deeper don’t be surprised to see Rodwell in close proximity.
I’m not sure who is fit after the Chelsea game, Saha and Cahill both picked up knocks. Losing Saha would be disappointing as he seems to be actually looking fit and up for it on the pitch now. Cahill being out wouldn’t bother many, he’s been pretty ineffectual of late and while most opposition fans mention him as a player they’d fear he hasn’t scored in 2011 and doesn’t really look like scoring either.
Optimistically 2-1 for us, realistically 1-1.
The 2011-12 to date has been a complete mixed bag with the best performances, against Villa and up to the sending off (and beyond) Liverpool yielding one point, while the worst performance against Blackburn got us three points. A more positive approach and we know we can compete against the best albeit not on a regular occurrence, this inconsistency really costs us. We had the chance to get off to a great positive start before the current tricky run we are in but blew it, again.
Every year I hope we will start off the season like we finished the last, every year I am left disappointed, this season is no different.
I watched him play against Villarreal in pre-season in one of the first games since his triple leg break. That 60minutes was enough to convince me that lad is going to be special. Our senior players looked to be trying to give him the ball at every opportunity and despite never having played a senior game for us he seemed to have established himself as the key creative player within the team. He must be pretty special in training to have that sort of status within the squad already; to back this up Tim Cahill described him as the most talented player he had ever seen in training. His technique and physical attributes are enough to make him a top player but what will take him to the next level is his vision and reading of the game, he has that ability to drift into spaces undetected and pick passes that other players just don’t see.
Jack Rodwell is a gifted player, he is strong, quick, and has all the attributes required. Injury and being played out-of position, notably on the wing, has led to some people saying he is not the player we thought he would be. Arteta leaving has given him an opportunity to prove these people wrong and from what I have seen of him this season he is certainly doing that, before Martin Atkinson robbed us in the derby by sending Rodwell off I thought he looked our best player. Rodwell and Felliani should be the core that we build the team around and the prospect of these two and Barkley playing together gives me reason to be optimistic.
David Moyes is Everton, just as Ferguson is United. I can’t praise him highly enough, even if I don’t always agree. He deserves all the credit he gets. It would be well deserved should he get some luck, and if any manager deserves a trophy, it’s David Moyes.
What he has done with the team on a limited budget over the last 10 years has been remarkable, the man is a legend. But I worry for the future under Moyes. We missed our opportunity to establish ourselves as one of the divisions elite 2 or 3 years ago when we had our best squad since the 80’s. Since then we have sold players and are left with no money and an ageing squad, fighting for our status as the best of the rest. For me we need to sell some of the older members of the squad while we can still get decent fees for them and rebuild the team around the likes of Felliani, Rodwell and Barkley. Ferguson has proved to be the master at this in the past, every time a team has overtaken United Fergie has rebuilt (often temporarily weakening the team to do so) and come back stronger, my hope is that Moyes can emulate his fellow Scot and do the same for us.
Everton A Feeder Club?
I have made my peace with being a selling club, but not a feeder club. Football is business, and it appears in the modern game only those invested in by foreign millions can afford not to be a selling club. Obviously if someone offers crazy money for a top young player we would be forced to sell but that could be said of anyone (see Cristiano Ronaldo), but I don’t think we are in such a position where we are forced to sell our top young players cheaply. If being a selling club means we have to sell players in their late 20’s while we can still get a decent fee for them rather than letting their contracts run down and keeping them for a few more years then that’s fine, as long as we keep producing good young players from our academy, bringing in good young players from smaller/feeder clubs, and giving them a chance in the first team then I have no problem.
Three Key Battles
The Everton Crowd vs. Wayne Rooney
The home fans will want to get on the nerves (and temper) of their former hero. They still have anger about the way Rooney was desperate to leave Everton to further his career. Wayne will just have to ignore whatever comes his way and not react with inappropriate gestures he has previously aimed at the Everton support. Let’s hope he lets his football do the talking.
Louis Saha vs. Nemanja Vidic
With a goal and a missed penalty against Chelsea in midweek, it was certainly a mixed evening for the former United striker, Saha. He will be Everton’s main attacking threat with the in-form Royston Drenthe suspended and Tim Cahill unlikely to start because of injury. Saha’s pace will certainly be a stern test for Vidic who is only just back from injury and still needs games to build his match fitness. The captain will be as determined as ever and you will see a typical no nonsense display.
Everton midfield vs. Manchester United midfield
Previous encounters between these two have been won in the middle of the pitch, due to the tight nature of most meetings. Whatever midfield Everton name, they will be physical and combative. Our midfield will need to be the same after it was simply missing last week.
For those wanting an easy “bounce back” victory, you probably will not get it this Saturday. Everton are always at their best whenever we play them. However, Everton have only won one of the past 12 meetings between the two sides and only three times in the 19 meetings between the two sides at Goodison Park, in the Premier League. Everton are also missing three key players in Phil Neville, Drenthe & Cahill (a doubt but unlikely to play). The task of victory looks even more difficult for them this weekend.
On the other hand United go into this match having only won two out of the last six matches in all competitions as the commanding start has taken a little stutter in recent weeks. Sir Alex will be demanding a reaction from his players after the drubbing last week. As history has shown, his teams have usually provided that reaction.
Three points is what everyone around the club is demanding at Everton on Saturday. The chase of our noisy neighbours begins in earnest.
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