Everton are unlucky not to be in the quarter-finals of the Carling Cup and though frustrated they will take at least a little encouragement from their level of performance against Chelsea.
Alas such brave stands rarely leave one unscathed and on top of the loss of creativity of the suspended Royston Drenthe, David Moyes could also be without Phil Neville and Tim Cahill who picked up knocks in that game. Two players the manager would have seen as central to his plans for the visit of United.
As ever, Moyes will make do with the players he has at his disposal and despite these loses he still has options enough to go into this game feeling confident of getting a positive result. While there is the danger of a backlash from United after their heavy and embarrassing loss to Man City last weekend, there’s also the opportunity to kick them while they’re down. Although the following five league games would be viewed as more winnable, beating United could set Everton off on a run which sees them shooting up the table. They’re 15/4 for the home win so it’d be a positive result for your pocket too.
United have looked shaky at the back all season and when teams, including Norwich and Basle, have put them on the back-foot, the cracks have been obvious. The reason could be the uncertainty of De Gea spreading a little nervousness but there has also been a lot of changes in personnel in front of him with Jones still settling in, Vidic appearing off form at times and Rio Ferdinand just not being good enough. Louis Saha hasn’t scored against his former side for Everton but he should be relishing the chance to run at this backline and he’s nicely priced at 9/1 to score first and 3/1 to score anytime. Tim Cahill, if he plays is the next obvious choice at 10/1 to score first.
The key will be to not sit back and allow United’s attacking players time to get comfortable on the ball, something which Everton are very good at. The question will be whether their mid-week excursions have left them a little heavy-legged. At this point in the season it shouldn’t be a concern. Alternately Ferguson’s decision to field his second string against Aldershot won’t necessarily help them going to Goodison Park. Most of the players who lost to Man City didn’t benefit from the confidence boost of that win and a bright, attacking start from Everton could see them wobble. In the midfield Moyes will feel he has the stronger line-up and if Osman, Rodwell and Fellaini can control that area then Everton can take a real grip on this game. The question then will be whether or not they can take the chances they create and keep their concentration at the back.
The draw at 5/2 wouldn’t be a bad result by any means but David Moyes will telling his players to go after the win and they’ll battle right until the final whistle. The last goal to come after the 74th minute is well worth considering even at the odds-on price of 10/11. A 6-1 win at 500/1 wouldn’t be too bad but it’s a little unlikely. 1-0 and 2-1, both at 12/1 are more likely and ultimately just as satisfying outcomes.