Evertonians will be thankful 2017 is finally over and everyone involved with the club can leave it where it belongs – in the past.
Two away league wins in the calendar year, a disastrous Europa League campaign and four different people in the dugout, here’s hoping 2018 is one to remember…
The start of the new year couldn’t be much more difficult for the Blues, beginning with Manchester United, then a trip to Liverpool before a visit to Wembley to face Spurs.
Sam Allardyce suffered his first loss as Everton boss, a massively disappointing 2-1 defeat against a Bournemouth side who were sitting in the relegation zone.
United have had an indifferent season, being third in the table is by no means bad, but the Red Devils will be frustrated they couldn’t put up more of a fight against runaway leaders Manchester City.
Jose Mourinho’s outfit haven’t won since a 2-1 away win at West Brom in mid December, since then they have tasted defeat from Championship side Bristol City then three draws against Leicester, Burnley and Southampton followed.
One to watch –
Marcus Rashford might get a rare chance to play in his natural position leading the line for the visitors.
The 20-year-old forward has featured predominantly on the left-hand side since Mourinho’s arrival but Rashford is a striker at heart.
Electric pace, good at set pieces and an excellent finisher for his age, he is one that the Blues’ backline must take special care of, if selected.
Team news –
James McCarthy and Yannick Bolasie will be assessed before the game after making their respective come backs recently.
Idrissa Gueye shrugged off a hamstring injury and featured, then went on to score, at Dean Court. Ross Barkley and Leighton Baines are still out.
Depleted United will be missing Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and former Everton stars Romelu Lukaku and Marouane Fellaini won’t be available for a return to the Grand Old Lady. Ashley Young is banned.
Michael Carrick and Eric Bailly continue to seek treatment on injuries. Chris Smalling is hopeful to be fit but Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian are also doubts.
Man in the middle –
Andre Marriner will referee the game having already taken charge of the reverse fixture earlier this term when United ran out 4-0 winners at Old Trafford.