Will Manchester United's push for a top four spot come unstuck when the Toffees visit the Theatre of Dreams?
Manchester United v Everton, Sunday 4.00pm, Sky Sports 1
What happens when an unmovable object meets an unstoppable force? No, it’s not quite Batman v Superman, in fact it’s sixth versus 11th in the Premier League, but dig a little deeper into the numbers and this titanic tussle looks as level as can be.
The Toffees are stumbling along in the bottom half of the table, with an FA Cup semi-final appearance and the ability to bop along to Jason Derulo apparently the only things keeping manager Roberto Martinez in a job. But on the road Everton are an altogether different beast.
Their only defeat on the road has been against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium, and no team in the top flight have lost fewer away games this year. The Toffees have kept clean sheets in 46 per cent of their away games and have taken points off Tottenham, Manchester City, West Ham and Chelsea on their travels.
Away from Goodison Park Everton have picked up 22 points – 58 per cent of their total for the season, but there are a couple of reasons why the travelling blues might not be as confident rocking into Old Trafford. Both history and more recent form is contriving against them.
Firstly, the history. Out of the last 21 trips to the Theatre of Dreams, Everton have picked up 7 points from a possible 63 in the league. They’ve lost 16, drawn four, and won just the once – Bryan Oviedo’s 86th minute winner in 2014 broke another unwanted record for United boss David Moyes who edged ever closer to the chop.
Secondly, this season Manchester United’s home form has been key to Louis van Gaal keeping within touching distance of a top four spot. The Red Devils have lost just twice at home in all competitions – and while that record may sound impressive, the fact that those two defeats came against Southampton and Norwich prove what a frustrating season it has been for the Stretford End faithful.
Table toppers Leicester are the only side with a better home record than Manchester United this season, while David De Gea and co have kept clean sheets in almost two thirds of their league home games. Not a bad record to pop on the CV just in case Real Madrid get the fax machine working…
So, while at first glance Sunday’s fixture doesn’t scream clash of the titans, a bit of form study suggests we’re actually looking at two in-form sides. And at the risk of having to pick splinters out of my arse, the price of a draw at looks more than fair.
Although Everton have been flexing their goal-scoring muscles of late – they’ve bagged three goals in each of their last three away league games – Manchester United can nullify that threat. Under 2.5 goals is currently odds-on at and the 1-1 draw is the most likely scoreline according to the traders in Power Tower at .
While we admire the fashion sense of the traders on level two in Dublin and would hate to upset them, the on the 0-0 score may be worth a small punt however. All four of Manchester United’s home draws this season have ended scoreless, while three of Everton’s seven away draws have been 0-0. Notably two of those goalless draws for Everton came against top six opposition in Tottenham and Manchester City, and it could well be another stalemate at Old Trafford.