Manchester United have a comfortable nine point lead in the tables with roughly a third of the season left to play. Everton is trailing by 20 points, but the Blues are just three points out of the top four, currently in fifth place behind Tottenham.
Sunday’s match promises to be an exciting one. The two clubs faced off to kick off the Premier League season, and while nearly six months separate the two meetings, Everton did get the best of the Red Devils in a 1-0 match in August.
Everton won’t be in the friendly confines of Goodison Park this time around, though, and the Blues will have their hands full trying to slow a United squad that has won five of its last seven matches, especially at Old Trafford—a venue at which they haven’t won since 1992.
We’ll take a look at some of the key points and players to watch for Sunday’s action.
Where: Old Trafford, Greater Manchester, England
When: Sunday, Feb. 10, at 11:00 a.m. EST
Television: Fox Soccer
Streaming: Watch Premier League
What They’re Saying:
It’s going to be hard derailing a train that has been rolling at full speed this season. As United’s Twitter account points out, the Red Devils are playing at a historic pace:
Man Utd Malaysia @MUFC_Malaysia
62 points from 25 games is the most ever achieved by Manchester United at this stage in a season during the Premier League era.2/7/2013, 3:37:16 PM
While Manchester United has been on a hot streak, don’t count out the Blues. Everton has also been playing terrific football as of late (via EvertonFC.com):
Everton can take heart from not only their recent seven-match unbeaten run but also the fact that they have taken four points from their last two matches against Manchester United. Like Sunday’s opponents, the Blues have only lost three times in the Premier League this season and will be aiming to claw back ground on Chelsea and Tottenham who have accumulated four and three points more respectively.
Players to Watch:
Marouane Fellaini is Everton’s leading scorer this year, and after scoring the only goal in the Blues’ 1-0 victory over United to start the season, it will be imperative for him to be healthy and ready to go on Sunday.
Unfortunately for Everton, Fellaini was injured in the club’s recent match against Aston Villa, and there’s a chance he may not make the trip to Old Trafford (via The Guardian).
The midfielder is a big key to Everton’s season, and the squad can’t afford to be without him on United’s home turf. Should Fellaini make the trip, it will be interesting to see how he responds to the hip injury in one of the biggest games on the table.
Rooney played a full 90 minutes for Manchester United in their win over Brazil on Wednesday. While concerns about using Rooney for an entire match with an EPL tilt on the horizon may be justified, Rooney isn’t worried about the extra work, as quoted in a report by The Telegraph:
We don't have anyone who doesn't want to do the work. We all look at the statistics after the game to see how much running we have done and are well aware of everything we do. There is no hiding place with all the technology and stuff.
Rooney is always one to give it his full effort. He’s scored 10 goals and recorded seven assists this season, and he’ll look to add to those figures this weekend. Given the amount of time he spent on the pitch against Brazil, it will be interesting to see how fresh he looks against Everton on Sunday.
Manchester United is favored in this matchup, and although the Red Devils have been playing fantastic football, they have failed to finish off matches at times when they hold a lead.
Rooney can’t explain the lack of killer instinct, as quoted by The Telegraph:
I can't put my finger on why we are not killing teams off. We have scored plenty of goals. It is the most number we have scored at this stage of the season. We have conceded too many and have done throughout the season. But that is the way we have been set up to play. We have to just keep our scoring going.
The onus will be on Everton’s defense to stop United’s strikers from doing damage early on. If the Blues can keep this to a low-scoring affair, they stand a good chance of wearing down United and capitalizing late in the match as they did so many times against United last season in their 4-4 draw.