Match Preview: Everton vs Manchester United

Everton take on Manchester United this weekend in a game with major top-four implications.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men need to win if they are to stay in touch with Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and Chelsea in the hunt for Champions League football.

Everton, of course, have had a longer rest than United; Solskjaer’s men were beaten by Barcelona in the European competition earlier this week, while already-relegated Fulham bested the Toffees last weekend.

Both sides, then, need three points as they look to get back to winning ways.

What history tells us

Everton have beaten United just eight times in the Premier League.

United, by comparison, have won 36. They have also scored 100 goals to Everton’s 47.

The last time Marco Silva’s side claimed a victory over the Red Devils was in 2015, when James McCarthy, John Stones and Kevin Mirallas scored the goals in a 3-0 win.

Louis van Gaal was in the Old Trafford dugout that day, with Roberto Martinez in charge of the hosts.

Key battle

The two midfielders who make their sides tick. This season, Sigurdsson has scored 12 Premier League goals, while Pogba has 13. Each are integral to the way their sides play and when they are on form, so too are their teams.

Pogba is more of a creator than his Icelandic counterpart, laying on nine assists to Sigurdsson’s four. But the Frenchman has had more shots – 93 to 78 – and Sigurdsson has made more key passes, 64 to 46.

If Sigurdsson is at his best on Sunday, Everton’s chances of victory increase dramatically. Unfortunately for the Toffees, the same can be said of Pogba, although the Frenchman hasn’t been at his best for some time now. Excepting his two penalties against West Ham, Pogba hasn’t scored in the Premier League since the start of February.

Ref in focus – Paul Tierney

Tierney is a referee who tends to shy away from the limelight. He is not of the Mike Dean school of officiating, where every card is an opportunity to tread the boards.

Instead, he does his job quietly and efficiently. Heading into this weekend he was 12th out of 18 Premier League referees when it comes to fouls per game, penalties awarded per game and red cards per game, and 11th for fouls per tackle.

His away win bias, perhaps encouragingly for United, is 62%.

Team News

Everton are likely to be without former United star Morgan Schneiderlin, who is struggling with an ankle injury. Defender Yerry Mina is also ruled out with a hamstring injury while Andre Gomes, the midfielder on loan from Barcelona, is suspended.

Silva, then, has holes to plug.

It would not be too surprising if Tom Davies was drafted into midfield, his hard running and tough tackling are likely to press United back throughout the 90 minutes, and he will be partnered with the exceptional defensive midfielder Idrissa Gueye.

With Mina ruled out, Michael Keane and Kurt Zouma are likely to be charged with playing at centre-back.

Up front, Dominic Calvert-Lewin has impressed against the bigger sides, though he is not your usual striker; he is more a player who can occupy defenders and free up space for his fellow attackers.

In this instance, that is likely to be both Bernard and Richarlison on the flanks, with Gylfi Sigurdsson at No.10. Overall then, that’s two changes from the Everton side that lost to Fulham last time out.

United, meanwhile, are without Luke Shaw, who is suspended, and Antonio Valencia, while Ander Herrera and Eric Bailly remain serious doubts.

With Shaw suspended, Ashley Young looks set to switch over to left-back, while Diogo Dalot, Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof are likely to make up the defence.

Further forward, Romelu Lukaku will be out to score against his old club, with Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford providing support.

Scott McTominay performed admirably against Barcelona so it would not be a surprise if he was again selected here, alongside Paul Pogba and the returning Nemanja Matic. Amid a run of five defeats in seven, the Serbian will be key to adding an extra layer of defensive protection.