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Starting XI: Everton vs. Manchester United

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A challenging trip for the Reds in their quest for the top four

Manchester United v Everton FC - Premier League Photo by Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images

Everything that you need to know ahead of Sunday’s match:

(1) Manchester United ended the suspense early on Thursday by scoring three first-half goals to kill off Club Brugge in the Europa League. Bruno Fernandes struck from the penalty spot again, Odion Ighalo opened his United account seven minutes later, and Scott McTominay celebrated his return to the starting lineup with a 41st minute goal. Fred added a late brace to cap off the 5-0 win.

(2) With an important trip to Everton looming at the weekend, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer still opted for a fairly strong side against Club Brugge. Thankfully, though, the lopsided scoreline allowed the United boss to remove Daniel James at halftime and Bruno shortly after the hour mark. Both should be relatively fresh for Sunday.

(3) Solskjaer on Ighalo:

As a fellow striker myself, I know how important that first goal is and he’s been close a couple of times. You can see that he sniffs goals. He wants to be there, where it sometimes hurts. That goal, he was sharp in his head and, as that ball is played over to Juan, he spins and was on the six-yard line when Juan puts it there. That’s a natural striker.

(4) Earlier this season, Everton held Manchester United to a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford. A lot has changed since then, though. United made some big moves in the January transfer window, while Everton brought in a world-class manager (Carlo Ancelotti) to lead their turnaround.

(5) Here’s Ole on why Anthony Martial missed out on the Club Brugge match — and remains a big question mark for the trip to Everton, too:

He went off during training [on Wednesday]. He tried to be fit for today. It’s not his hamstring, it’s his thigh and in and around the knee.

(6) Before last weekend’s 3-2 defeat at Arsenal, Everton had been unbeaten in five Premier League matches. Back in December, such a run would have seemed unthinkable. Carlo Ancelotti took over at Goodison Park when Everton sat 15th in the table and looked more likely to flirt with relegation than to mount a top-six challenge. Yet the veteran Italian managed to steady the ship immediately and, despite still being stuck in eleventh, boosted Everton to within five points of Manchester United.

(7) Last weekend, Andre Gomes returned to the Everton midfield for the first time since a brutal ankle injury in November. Ancelotti eased the 26-year-old back into the side with a 31-minute cameo in the second half, but he could be ready to restore Gomes to the starting eleven on Sunday.

(8) Ancelotti on Gomes and other Everton injuries:

Andre did really well, without a problem. He was really strong in the tackle. The player is ready and really important for us and will play in the next game.

[Lucas Digne and Theo Walcott] can play next week. They will be ready for United. They don’t have big problems and can recover soon.

(9) Everton are especially strong up front, with Dominic Calvert-Lewin (12 goals) and Richarlison (10 goals) leading the line. And, despite another strong season from the latter, the club has no plans to cash in on him this summer. Everton shelled out £40 million to bring in Richarlison from Watford in 2018 and he’s easily doubled his valuation since then. The 22-year-old signed a new long-term contract in December and Ancelotti plans to hold him to it, even if high-profile suitors like Barcelona come sniffing around.

(10) While the Everton attack is thriving, the defense has suffered of late. The Toffee backline has allowed eight goals in their past four matches and played particularly poorly in last weekend’s loss to Arsenal. On the plus side, Djibril Sidibe (on loan from AS Monaco) has proven a revelation at right back ever since Ancelotti gave him a consistent run in the side.

(11) Will Manchester United finally get their three-match winning streak on Sunday?