The 4-0 loss in the Merseyside derby was not exactly the perfect way to prepare for the FA Cup semi-final date with Manchester United at Wembley, meaning Everton will have to show massive improvement if they want to remain in the hunt for the coveted title. The Red Devils, on the other hand, made it five wins in last six fixtures, and they head into the high-profile game in excellent spirits.
Everton appointed Roberto Martinez as their new manager in 2013, hoping the Spaniard will help the team make the next step and break into the Premier League top 4, but fast forward three years and the Toffees are much closer to the bottom three than the Champions League positions. And with the players like Lukaku, Barkley, Stones, Baines and McCarthy in the squad, it is hardly surprising that the fans are disappointed by team’s showings this season, with second successive bottom table finish on the cards. The reality is that Roberto Martinez is in danger of getting the sack, and the only way to ensure at least another year at the helm is by winning the FA Cup trophy. Considering that Man Utd, Crystal Palace and Watford are the other three sides left in the competition, that would not normally be such a difficult task, but if we take one look at Everton’s showings over the last few weeks, the perspective quickly changes. The Toffees are not only winless in last six games, but they have lost three of those, scoring just two goals in the process, and having suffered an embarrassing defeat to rivals Liverpool in the Merseyside derby, they don’t seem capable of reversing the trend against Manchester United.
John Stones and Gareth Barry should be fit to play despite suffering knocks in the Liverpool game, but Ramiro Funes Mori is suspended.
Seamus Coleman has failed to recover from injury, meaning that Bryan Oviedo will again start at right-back, while Muhamed Besic and Tom Cleverley are pushing for starting places.
What looked like another very disappointing season for Manchester United could ultimately turn into a success, if the Red Devils manage to keep the rich vein of form. And while Louis van Gaal has got to be given credit for giving so many talented footballers a chance to shine, the results have simply not been good enough this term. But, Man Utd still have time to make things right considering that the impressive run of four wins in last five Premier League fixtures saw them close the gap behind fourth-placed Manchester City to mere two points ahead of the final four games. At the same time, the Red Devils have got an excellent opportunity to lift the first FA Cup trophy since 2004, as they are now 5/4 favourites to lift the coveted title. Manchester United head into the semi-final clash against Everton in much better spirits than the opposition, buoyed by successive wins over West Ham, Aston Villa and Crystal Palace, and they will also attempt to take advantage of the fact that the Toffees will be under tremendous pressure seeing as how this is their final chance to salvage the season.
Captain Wayne Rooney should keep his place after proving his fitness, while Chris Smalling has recovered from the injury he suffered against Palace.
Bastian Schweinsteiger, Adnan Januzaj and Luke Shaw are all unavailable, whereas Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini are likely to play a part.
Key Factors to Consider
- Man Utd won both fixtures vs Everton this season
- Only one of last eight meetings saw both teams score
- Everton are winless in last six matches (D3 L3)
- Man Utd have five wins in last six games (L1)
- The Red Devils kept four clean sheets during said period
Everton have largely struggled for form of late and having just suffered a 4-0 loss to local rivals Liverpool, we don’t see how they are going to upset Man Utd at Wembley. The Red Devils, on the other hand, have been on top of their game in recent weeks and they should have no problems booking a ticket for a return to Wembley.
Verdict: Away win
Best Odds: 1/1
Bookmaker: William Hill