With the league title almost a certainty now, it’s not going to be a big surprise if Manchester United don’t field their strongest lineup as they host Everton, a team that beat them on the opening weekend of the season, before things started to go smoothly for league leaders.
Robin van Persie, three words, is pretty much all the difference. Van Persie came off the bench that evening in Goodison Park, when Wayne Rooney looked out of shape and overweight while Nani made it clear that he has no real future with United. Alex Ferguson wrote everything down, and began his repair job, while Van Persie took over the scoring, so far with 18 goals this season. Van Persie hasn’t scored in two consecutive league matches, something that hasn’t happened since November, but United have enough weapons that fire well while the focus remains on him to be the big game changer in the match.
United are almost perfect at home this season, with 11 wins in 12 matches, dropping their only points back in September: a 2-3 loss to Tottenham that many signal as the changing point of the season for United, when Alex Ferguson decided to give up on tactics, and simply focus on the superb finishing skills of his players. Tottenham haven’t lost to United this season (drawing at White Hart Lane), and Everton, one of the three teams to beat the Red Devils this season, are hoping to be the second team no to lose at Old Trafford.
They certainly have the ability and the credentials. A very physical team, currently at sixth in the table, with a win potentially propelling them back to fifth, very much in the thick of the Champions League/top 4 race. Marouane Fellaini, so far staying with the team but letting everyone know he’s thinking about Chelsea, has been the main man, scoring 10 league goals, including twice in the 3-3 draw with Aston Villa last week, his first league goals since December 1.
Everton are a team that play very tight and physical football, especially away from home, losing only twice this season when out of Goodison Park, the last of those losses coming in Reading nearly three months ago.
Prediction – Manchester United should win, regardless of the lineup, but if Everton can hang on during the first half, which is usually the period United have played better at in recent weeks before hanging on to leads in the second, they might come out with a surprising result.