Everything that you need to know ahead of Wednesday’s match:
(1) Manchester United travel to Goodison Park to take on Everton in the quarterfinals of the Carabao Cup. Last season, the Reds reached the semifinals stage before falling just short over two legs against Manchester City. In fact, that was the first of three semifinals exits in cup competitions during the 2019/20 season.
(2) Against Leeds on Sunday, most of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s starting lineup went as expected — albeit with one huge surprise. Daniel James, who hadn’t played in the Premier League since before Halloween, started on the right ahead of Mason Greenwood and even scored a second-half goal. Just a few days ago, James seemed destined to head out on loan — either to Leeds or Brighton — for the second half of the season, but now looks likely to stay and fight for his place.
(3) Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on the injured Luke Shaw and Scott McTominay:
Luke has been ill for a few days and was only passed fit this morning. He didn’t train yesterday. Scott, it seemed like a groin issue. I don’t know. Hopefully, it won’t be too long as he’s not had any muscle injuries before. But I don’t know how quickly he will recover.
(4) McTominay, in particular, sounds doubtful for the trip to Everton, opening up a midfield spot for either Paul Pogba or Donny van de Beek. This could be one of several changes on the day — after all, two days of recovery ain’t much after ninety exhausting minutes chasing Leeds around.
(5) One guy that Manchester United cannot afford to rest is Bruno Fernandes:
Bruno Fernandes for Manchester United:— Footy Accumulators (@FootyAccums) December 20, 2020
⚽️ 25 goals
️ 15 assists
40 goal contributions in 42 appearances! pic.twitter.com/QlW9I9vaqI
(6) One year on, Farhad Moshiri’s decision to appoint Carlo Ancelotti looks increasingly inspired. Everton sat a lowly fifteenth in the table when the decorated Italian manager arrived at Goodison Park — and he’s spent the past twelve months slowly but surely shaping this side into one capable of competing for a European place. After an up-and-down few months, the Toffees are flying in December with consecutive wins over Chelsea, Leicester City, and Arsenal.
(7) As Richarlison goes, so goes Everton. Manchester United lucked out the first time around with the Brazilian attacker suspended and Everton’s overall play suffered greatly for it. But Richarlison is back now, terrorizing defenses from the left wing, and creating chances for the newly-prolific Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Consider: Everton lost all three matches during Richarlison’s suspension, but just one other time in eleven Premier League games with him on the pitch.
(8) Incredibly, Everton’s winning run also coincides with a glut of injuries to key players. The Toffees have been without both starting fullbacks, Seamus Coleman and Lucas Digne, in recent weeks — forcing Ancelotti to field a makeshift backline of four center backs in Ben Godfrey, Michael Keane, Yerry Mina, and Mason Holgate. Allan, the holding midfielder responsible for shielding the defense, was stretchered off against Leicester last week with a serious hamstring injury. And, finally, James Rodriguez (calf) has missed the last three matches, though he’s expected back for Manchester United’s visit.
Carlo has took 9 points from Chelsea, Leicester and Arsenal whilst having no fullbacks, starting 4 cbs and no James Rodriguez.— Kai (@Efc_Kai) December 19, 2020
World class manager pic.twitter.com/TAYNn4Ucn3
(9) On Saturday, Everton were the latest benefactors of Arsenal’s ongoing self-immolation. Ancelotti lined them up in a 4-2-3-1, tasking Abdoulaye Doucoure with a box-to-box role in Allan’s absence, and Everton rolled through the hapless Gunners to jump into the top four. Even better, Seamus Coleman came off the bench in the second half to ease Everton’s injury crisis at the back.
(10) One to watch: Dominic Calvert-Lewin. The 23-year-old striker continues to sparkle in front of goal with fourteen scores in all competitions this season. And he could even have one more as his opener against Arsenal was ultimately ruled a Rob Holding own goal. The attacking threat of James Rodriguez and Alex Iwobi on the wings allows DCL to stay up in the box and look for space to unleash his powerful headers. Harry Maguire, be ready.
I need the number for the dubious goals panel What a performance pic.twitter.com/NpZ9UNowoy— Dominic Calvert-Lewin (@CalvertLewin14) December 19, 2020
(11) Carlo Ancelotti weighed in on the contentious five substitute debate:
In my personal opinion, three substitutes is enough to change the game. I understand some managers want to have five, but if you need to rest the player because of busy schedule, you can keep him out at the beginning of the game and not sub him after 60-70 minutes.