Why Everton trip is crucial to Man United’s season

After seven games of the new season, the Old Trafford faithful was starting to believe the hype.

Manchester United had strengthened their squad over the off-season, Louis van Gaal was in confident mood and the club was sitting on top of the Premier League table as reigning champions Chelsea faltered.

However, it is noteworthy just how much of a difference one result can make, with a 3-0 defeat to Arsenal last time out a significant dent on the momentum that the Red Devils had seen building in weeks prior.

The fact that Van Gaal’s charges lost by such a sizeable margin had to be taken into account, while getting beat by a fellow title hopeful made the loss even more costly.

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That said, the most disappointing thing for the travelling support will have been the nature of the team’s performance, with the side looking like a throwback to the David Moyes era with their calamitous defending and ineffective attack.

Arsenal played very well in a mesmerising 20 minute spell, but United were ideal opposition; their defence stood off the Gunners’ dangermen, the side lacked organisation and after going a goal down early on the whole unit looked demoralised.

The visitors’ attempts to get back into the game were unsuccessful, with an Anthony Marital chance in the final moments of the first-half the only real opportunity of note for Van Gaal’s side over the course of the 90 minutes. All teams have bad days and suffer defeats, but it is the reaction to those results that can define a side’s campaign.

United are on the road again this weekend and face another tough task in facing Everton at Goodison Park.

Roberto Martinez’s men are without the distraction of Europa League football this season and importantly have returned to the possession-based, confident displays of 2013-14 this term.

With Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku in uncompromising form and an ardent Goodison faithful behind the hosts on Saturday, a much-improved performance is needed by United if a different outcome is to be ascertained.

Everton have already shown this season that they can be a devastating attacking force, beating Chelsea on home soil and playing some scintillating football in the process.

If United afford Barkley and co the same space and opportunity that they did to Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil two weeks ago, back-to-back defeats are a real possibility.

In any transitional team, as Van Gaal’s Red Devils currently are, setbacks are likely as players get used to their manager’s instructions and become accustomed to playing alongside one another.

However, momentum is key in a title challenge and two defeats on the trot has the potential to completely derail United’s ambitions this term. Although the way the Old Trafford side have played their football has been key to the fans in the past, the result is the key thing this weekend.

A dogged, hard-fought and even lucky result would be the ideal way to get back on track and prove that United have the heart and determination to challenge English football’s elite this term.

A defeat would certainly cause the alarm bells to start ringing, with any repeat of the 3-0 loss at the same venue last season a hammer blow to the club’s hopes this term.

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