Jonny Evans’ return from a six-match suspension will be a welcome boost to a Manchester United side short of defensive options for Sunday’s Premier League visit to Everton.
Northern Ireland international Evans was hit with a hefty ban for spitting at Papiss Cisse during the 1-0 victory over Newcastle United in March.
Evans has protested his innocence during his absence and the centre-back makes a timely return ahead of the trip to Goodison Park.
Full-back Rafael da Silva suffered a broken rib in an Under-21 match against Leicester City on Monday, joining Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones on the sidelines, while midfielder Michael Carrick (calf) is still absent.
The match against Everton offers United, who are third, the perfect chance to bounce back after last week’s 1-0 defeat to leaders Chelsea ended a six-match winning league run.
Manager Louis van Gaal says that finishing third and guaranteeing UEFA Champions League football will appease the club’s hierarchy, but that his ultimate aim is to bring the Premier League title back to Old Trafford.
“It’s better [to be third]. We set this goal because it was very difficult to reach the top four,” he said
“I am the manager and I have to achieve that and they [the board] have set this goal for me to achieve, but I’m always in a club to win the championship and not the fourth position or the third position.
“I think when we achieve our goal, my board and the owners are very happy.”
Everton, who will come up against their in-form former midfielder Marouane Fellaini, have hit a purple patch by winning four of their past five league matches and keeping clean sheets in their last three at home.
Roberto Martinez’s side achieved the double over United last season, including a 2-0 victory in the corresponding fixture that ended former Everton manager David Moyes’ ill-fated tenure at Old Trafford.
This season’s reverse encounter ended in a 2-1 defeat in October, when Everton were unlucky to find United goalkeeper David de Gea on top form.
“We’re facing a side in the best moment of their season,” Martinez said. “We felt we deserved better [in the first game], David de Gea had two world-class saves.
“It’s two teams in a good moment of form. We’re looking forward to facing this side and we feel we’ve got something to get back from the game at Old Trafford.”
Martinez is hoping to have James McCarthy and Leon Osman available, but Steven Pienaar (muscle fatigue) is likely to miss out.
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