Everton manager Roberto Martinez is a keen admirer of Wayne Rooney but hopes he falls short in his bid to be fit for Manchester United’s visit on Saturday.
Rooney missed England’s final two Euro 2016 qualifiers against Estonia and Lithuania after receiving a knock to the ankle in United’s Premier League defeat to Arsenal at the start of the month.
The United and England skipper remains doubtful for this weekend’s trip to his former club as United seek to arrest a poor run of form at Goodison Park.
Everton have won the last three meetings between the sides on home soil without conceding a goal and Martinez’s hopes of maintaining that record have been bolstered by the likely return to action of defender John Stones.
No new injuries have surfaced for Martinez following the international break, although Leighton Baines remains around two weeks away following an ankle problem.
When asked about Rooney’s below-par return of one Premier League goal this season, Martinez told reporters: “His contribution is a bit more than scoring goals.
“If you want my thoughts, I would prefer it if Wayne Rooney doesn’t play. From an opposition point of view, I think Manchester United are a better team when Wayne Rooney plays.
“He brings a lot more to his performance that just hitting the back of the net.”
Louis van Gaal’s United went into the international break off the back of a 3-0 defeat at the Emirates Stadium, as a vibrant first-half display from Arsenal saw them score all three goals inside the opening 20 minutes.
Morgan Schneiderlin will hope to regain a starting place in midfield, with Bastian Schweinsteiger having hurt his thigh while away with Germany.
United were dismantled 3-0 at Goodison in April as Van Gaal was handed a reminder of the size of his rebuilding task, but Martinez is not paying much attention to previous meetings.
“I think records and previous results mean very little – what’s important is that we respect immensely this Manchester United side,” he added.
“A couple of weeks ago when they went top of the league, that was a real statement of intent.
“Manchester United have a settled side now and have become really strong in what they do.”
Key Opta Stats
– Romelu Lukaku is one of only four players to score a Premier League hat-trick against Manchester United. David Bentley, Dirk Kuyt and Samuel Eto’o are the others.
– Wayne Rooney has not scored an away Premier League goal since November (17 games ago). He has not scored at Goodison Park since April 2007 (six games).
– Roberto Martinez’s side have only won one of their last six at Goodison Park (D2 L3).
– Louis van Gaal (8/23) is still two short of the number of Premier League away wins recorded at Man Utd by David Moyes (10/18) despite managing five more games on the road.
– Gareth Barry will become only the second player to make 550 Premier League starts if he is named in the eleven in this game. David James made 571.