Everton v Manchester United

Are you hanging up a stocking on your wall?

No need to answer as, well, that’s your business but Everton is our business so I’ll try best to keep to the theme best I can. 

The season of cheer and goodwill continued Saturday gone as Arsenal became the latest to be dispatched by Ancelotti’s latest monster in a display of verve, discipline and calm. Sure, many would have liked a second half with more panache but it was the tail end of three tough games in one week against a team fighting for their lives, be it for El Hair their manager or for their own bruised egos at the bumming they’ve taken in the press. Everton got the win over the line and that’s really all we care about isn’t it?

Anyone versed even lightly in Everton will know this is the time to apply as much prudence as excitement as we’re acutely tuned to a the balance within this great universe in which we both manage to both spin and hurtle simultaneously in. The nice bits are often enjoyed with the full awareness, bordering even trepidation, that whatever comes next must surely be a cruel yang to our sweet lines of yin. 

Which leads us perhaps paradoxically into a big game but not a must win game. If we go on to lose then wounds would be licked quite quickly and we would take our glow over the eggnog, or Carling, this year through being fourth in a tight league and with a new cup competition starting shortly. However when you find yourself in good form playing a home tie just three games from a first cup in 26 years then passing over that particular gift horse without staring at its grid is probably a prime reason why you’re in that barren position to begin with. 

Sure you may come across a fan or two elsewhere turning up their nose at the competition but a) they’re largely bells and b) it’s the easiest way for Everton to reactivate their muscle memory of winning things. Carlo Ancelotti knows enough about winning a thing or two so I’ll defer to the strength of his team and approach for this accordingly. 

A determination in the outcome of this game may be how much Man Utd match that. They’re in the final throes of a punishing run of games, facilitated by midweek European ties, but sat prettier in the league than most or even themselves would have though possible a few weeks ago. Not too dissimilar to Everton in that respect but our manager doesn’t have a Brillo soul glo and living constantly on the precipice of the sack. It’s likely Man Utd will rotate more than Everton on that basis, setting a complacency trap we have fell into many times, but hopefully with the trampoline eyebrowed Italian knowing full well the potential impact of this game he will have his team at it. 

The absence of away fans spares us The Corona Express for this game, arriving via both Lime St and M62. Pulling up outside Goodison for you to embark with Daz and Gaz and Baz, complete with some garish displays of sartorial marking and identical ‘manc fringes. It’s my belief that there’s perhaps treble the amount of hair styles available in the 1950s US Marines and present day Pyongyang than you’ll find in a Mancunian barbers. Rumour has it the Corona Express takes you to a  mystical land called the Trafford Centre where Banta Claus himself resides, working all year to create utterly dour quips and unconvincing Gucci tracksuits for all the mancs on the good list. Banta Claus being Bernard Matthews in gravy stained fur and adopting a Windrush policy for anyone arriving without aforementioned haircut and a packet of Benson & Hedges, with demonstrable evidence of roaches been torn off the carton lid. I can’t remember anything else from the film so I’ll park that particularly low quality unfair partisan parody right there if you don’t mind. 

Scrooged remains the pound for pound best Christmas film as anyone of moderate perception and above knows. 

If you want insight into who they may play or how to tactically overcome them then you’re in the wrong place. My only contribution to this is that we owe them for turning us over with ease not so long ago, and if Bruno Fernandes plays then one of our shithouses simply must hurt him, without getting sent off if possible. 

Our platinum peaked Crosby affectionado assured that Everton would play their strongest team for this game, which indicates that there won’t be much changes from the weekend’s game. That will mean Mr CL up front aided by Sigurdsson behind who is really crying out for a goal, with Davies and the impressive Doucoure behind him.  The only change I can see there is either Gomes thrown in the mix or Holgate punted into midfield with Coleman returning at right back. 

Richarlison will be out left and this is exactly the type of game for him to step up to and lay a marker down in what has been a stop start season for him thus far. That Everton are sat in the position they are despite his inconsistency may be some testimony to a better squad emerging around him. Maybe. Iwobi fits firmly into this as in the last month he’s been really decent and although he seems to operate with the same directional capability as a Rook in chess he is showing proficiency in both directions. 

That should mean more of Benny, God Of War, at left back with a most enjoyable penchant for taking ball and man, and Mason Holgate at right back who’s received less plaudits but has been equally as good. The more they play at full back the more it is ensuring  focus on the two in the middle to keep on their toes too, as either or both will be eager to slot in there if/when sloppiness there costs us points. Both Keane and Mina have been really good though. No idea on the keeper but Pickford needs to cut out attacking crosses like it’s his turn at the net of a Cancun beach volleyball, while several frozen margaritas deep. 

The chances of beating Chelsea, Leicester, Arsenal and Man Utd in 11 days straight were incredibly slim, and lesser so with the form Everton went into that sequence with, but here we are.

Indeed we are in a week where Jupiter and Saturn in our sky snuggled up as close to each other as they will be for 800 years perhaps we can consider that sometimes the stars do really align. At the time of year most for a message of hope then maybe just maybe Everton do have a golden opportunity to turn our own limiting phase from Everton that, to Everton this.

The final whistle of this game brings us almost to Christmas Eve – my favourite day of the year no less – so I certainly won’t miss the chance to wish you and those you love a very happy holidays. I appreciate you reading this or indeed any of my guff that I may write on a screen, thanks for any company you may have kept me during what has probably been a Mike Walker year for us all. 

We’ve been itching for an opportunity to lay a marker down and prove this time is different. 
So here it is, Merry Christmas.

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