10th February 2013
With Everton earning a 4-4 draw in the same fixture last season that ultimately cost United the Premier League title as well as beating their more illustrious opponents in the opening league fixture this term, Manchester United should have plenty of motives to get revenge on the Toffees and hopefully extend their lead at the top of the standings.
After the hard-fought wins over Southampton and Fulham proved United’s ability to grind out results and saw the team create a nine-point cushion at the Premier League summit, the Red Devils can be forgiven for feeling the league title is already in the bag. However, given that they were in a similar situation ahead of the clash with Everton last term and eventually went on to squander an eight-point advantage, Sir Alex Ferguson’s men will give their best not to allow any surprises this time. Manchester United have seen their performances drop over the last few weeks, which was perfectly normal following an outstanding run, but the most important thing is the results did not suffer. Given that the Everton clash comes just three days before the all-important Champions League tie against Real Madrid, Sir Alex Ferguson will be tempted into making changes to the starting line-up, so he is certainly happy to welcome Ashley Young, Michael Carrick and Phil Jones back from injury.
That long-awaited breakthrough season for Everton has finally arrived, but it remains to be seen whether a strong finish to the league campaign will see the Toffees pip Tottenham and Arsenal to the final Champions League berth (provided Chelsea stay in third). A lot of praise from football pundits everywhere has been going David Moyes’ way and rightly so, with his side showing plenty of quality and incredible consistency in the first 25 fixtures. Team’s outstanding showings have probably warranted few more points that would see Everton find themselves in Champions League places, but with fourth-placed Tottenham just three points away, that fourth place is still very much within range. The Toffees showed a lot of character to come from two goals behind and earn a 3-3 draw against Aston Villa, with Marouane Fellaini scoring a second-half brace, but the Belgian’s hip injury makes him a major doubt for the Old Trafford encounter. Phil Jagielka is set to return, but Tony Hibbert and Seamus Coleman are definitely out.
A lot will depend on whether Marouane Fellaini recovers in time to start at Old Trafford, but another high-scoring game is expected regardless. Manchester United are obviously favourites for the win, but betting on over 2.5 goals feels like a better choice at the moment.
Verdict: Over 2.5 goals
Best Odds: 2/3