Manchester United face a visit from Carlo Ancelotti’s Everton on Saturday. United were victors by scores of 3-1 and 2-0 in the previous Premier League and League cup meetings respectively, and go into this one on the back of an emphatic 9-0 win over Southampton mid-week.
We spoke with Matthew Chandler from Royal Blue Mersey to get his take on things leading into the match.
The Busby Babe: If you could add any player from Everton’s past to play under Carlo Ancelotti in this team who would it be and why?
Royal Blue Mersey: Nigel Martyn, our goalkeeper when we finished fourth in 2004-05 under David Moyes. A fantastic, composed, underrated goalkeeper who I had a great chat with for our site the other week.
Jordan Pickford has been better lately and Robin Olsen has impressed since arriving in October on loan from Roma, but Martyn was another level. Many Everton fans see him as the best keeper we’ve had since Neville Southall, even above Tim Howard.
TBB: With Everton still near the top of the league, what are your hopes and/or expectations for the rest of the Premier League season?
RBM: Hope is the Champions League, expectation is the Europa League. I think we’re too inconsistent and essentially not good enough to make the top four this year, but just about consistent enough to make the six or seven this year. But in this season of all seasons, anything could happen, I suppose.
TBB: Dominic Calvert-Lewin ended his goal drought against Leeds, do you expect him to start another good run?
RBM: Possibly. Calvert-Lewin does tend to do things in streaks; he was superb from December 2019 to March 2020, and then didn’t score at all during Project Restart. It’s been similar this season; lightning-fast start, followed by a barren run.
I think he’ll be helped by the arrival of Joshua King, not least because we loaned out our only other two senior strikers in Moise Kean, who seemingly has no interest in playing for us, and Cenk Tosun, who isn’t good enough.
Calvert-Lewin has been overworked this season, so King can help share the workload a bit more evenly and also provide stronger competition to keep Calvert-Lewin hungry.
TBB: In this age of football with no fans in the stadium, Manchester United have been better on the road than at home. What has the case been for Everton?
RBM: The same. Everton haven’t won at an empty Goodison Park in the Premier League since October 3, and the only two league games where we were allowed 2,000 fans, we beat Chelsea and Arsenal (less said about the EFL Cup quarter-final, the better, though.)
Conversely, Everton have usually struggled on the road, yet go to Old Trafford looking for a fifth successive away league win. Clearly, it’s making a difference, but as stunning as the away form has been, it needs to be backed up by better results at Goodison - not losing and failing to score against sides like Newcastle, for instance.
TBB: Does Carlo Ancelotti pick a side for this match with an FA Cup tie against Tottenham in mind? And how do you weigh the chance at silverware with a spot in the top 6?
RBM: As a supporter, I would rather us win a cup, because as a 22-year-old Evertonian I’ve yet to see us win anything, though I accept that your league position is probably a better barometer of your club’s overarching progress.
Both are critical games in our season, and especially when you consider Ancelotti rested players like Michael Keane and James Rodriguez at Leeds on Wednesday, I see little reason why he can’t pick the same or similarly strong sides in both matches.
TBB: Who do you expect will give United the most problems in this match?
RBM: Calvert-Lewin is the obvious answer, but James Rodriguez is still masterful on the ball, Abdoulaye Doucoure provides such intensity and aggression in midfield, and Michael Keane and Yerry Mina are both aerial threats to look out for.
TBB: How do you expect Everton to set up?
RBM: 4-3-3, probably sitting deep and looking to break on United. Against sides like United, Ancelotti has clogged the back line with natural centre-halves and, unorthodox as it may sound, it’s really worked.
Though, that was mostly while Lucas Digne was injured, and he’s too good a left-back not to play at left-back, but thankfully Ben Godfrey and Mason Holgate are incredibly versatile.
I also hope Olsen keeps his place in goal even if Pickford is back from his rib injury, which he may be.
My team would be: Olsen; Digne, Keane, Mina, Holgate; Godfrey, Doucoure, Davies; Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin, Rodriguez.
TBB: What is your prediction for this match?
RBM: 1-1. Which I’d be very happy with, all things considered.
Cheers, Matthew, and thanks for your time!