Afternoon all! Sports Mole
's live Premier League coverage continues from Old Trafford as Manchester United
. Man United's 1-0 win at Manchester City before the international break has re-ignited their top-four push and they will be looking to make it back-to-back league wins against an inconsistent Everton here. That said, Roberto Martinez's side have only lost once on their travels this term.
In total, these two sides have clashed on 177 occasions. Man United have recorded 78 wins, Everton 58, while the remaining 41 fixtures have finished level. At Old Trafford, however, Man United have 49 wins from their 86 match-ups and Everton have actually only won once at Old Trafford in their last 22 attempts in the league. The Toffees have found it very tough on this ground!
In terms of the recent meetings between the two teams, Man United recorded an impressive 3-0 victory when they travelled to Goodison Park earlier this season and were also 2-1 winners in the corresponding league game last season. The statistics are strong for the Red Devils, but Everton have won three of the last five games between the pair in all competitions, including a 1-0 victory when they make the trip to this stadium in December 2013. Right, time for the team news here...
UNITED: De Gea; Darmian, Smalling, Blind, Rojo; Schneiderlin, Carrick; Lingard, Mata, Martial; Rashford
EVERTON: Joel; Coleman, Jagielka, Stones, Baines; Cleverley, McCarthy; Lennon, Barkley, Deulofeu; Lukaku
Louis van Gaal has named an unchanged line-up from the one that beat Man City before the international break, meaning another start at centre-forward for Marcus Rashford. Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial
also both start in the final third, but the match has come too soon for Wayne Rooney. Ander Herrera and Ashley Young, meanwhile, are back on the bench for the Red Devils.
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As for Everton, John Stones has been declared fit to start at centre-back despite picking up a slight knock on international duty for England. Stones joins Phil Jagielka and Ross Barkley in the XI, while former Manchester United midfielder Tom Cleverley is also selected. Gareth Barry misses out through suspension, but reported Man United target Romelu Lukaku will lead the away side's attack here.
So there we have it. The two teams are in at Old Trafford and are now just over 40 minutes from kickoff on this warm afternoon in sunny Manchester. I shall talk about Everton a little bit later, but let's start with the hosts Man United, who are looking to record four successive home wins in the Premier League for the first time since managing a six-match winning streak in April 2015.
Van Gaal's side were knocked out of the Europa League by Liverpool last month, but they have actually won three of their last four league matches, including a 1-0 victory at Man City before the international break. It was Rashford that grabbed the decisive goal at the Etihad and that result boosted Man United's hopes of making the top four, which appeared to have faded out of sight.
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Man City's thumping 4-0 win at Bournemouth on Saturday has seen Manuel Pellegrini's side move four points clear of sixth-place Man United, but West Ham United's 2-2 draw at home to Crystal Palace has given the Red Devils the chance to move into fifth position. A record of 14 wins, eight draws and eight defeats from 30 league games this season is hardly impressive, but a top-four finish and possible FA Cup success would at least be seen as a positive end to the campaign.
Goals have been hard to find for Man United this season, but they have only conceded 27 times in their 30 matches, which is the second-best defensive record in the league. They have also only lost twice at home in the league this season, which is in contrast to their away form, which has been very disappointing. Indeed, Van Gaal has only led his side to two away league victories in their last nine.
Next up for Man United is a trip to title challengers Tottenham Hotspur next weekend, before travelling to West Ham United on April 13 for their FA Cup quarter-final replay. Then comes three home league games against Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and Leicester City, before travelling to Norwich City and West Ham United and ending the campaign at home to Bournemouth.
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As for Everton, the Toffees will enter this match off the back of a disappointing 2-0 defeat at home to Arsenal before the international break. As it stands, the Merseysiders are 12th in the Premier League table and facing another bottom-half finish having ended last season in 11th. Overall, it has been another disappointing campaign for a team and indeed squad that is packed full of talent.
Indeed, Everton have only won nine of their 29 league games this season, drawing 11 and losing the other nine. They are actually only 11 points clear of the relegation zone and some 16 points off the Champions League positions, which is difficult for the supporters to accept. They have lost three of their last four in the league and are looking to avoid a third successive league defeat for the first time this season.
Incredibly, only Crystal Palace and Aston Villa have a worse home league record than Everton this season, with Martinez's side losing eight of their 16 games at Goodison Park. It has been a different story on the road, however, having only been beaten once – at Arsenal. The Toffees have also won each of their last four away games in all competitions – conceding once and scoring 11 times.
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Everton are actually also the team waiting for either Man United or West Ham in the semi-finals of the FA Cup and therefore this might not be the last clash between these two sides this season. FA Cup success would be wonderful for the Everton supporters and the club, but there is no getting away from the fact that it has been another inconsistent and largely disappointing league campaign.
Everton's next three league matches – including this one – are all away as they prepare to travel to Watford and Crystal Palace in their next two. They will then welcome Southampton on April 16, before travelling to Liverpool for the Merseyside derby on April 20. Bournemouth will make the trip to Goodison on April 30, before Martinez's side face Leicester City and Sunderland on the road.
Everton's league campaign will end at home to Norwich City and there is no getting away from the fact that it will be a massive transfer window for the club following investment. Players are expected to arrive, but they will surely face interest in the likes of Lukaku, Barkley and Stones. All three have been linked with Man United, in addition to a number of top European clubs.
PREDICTION! Score draw for me this afternoon. Everton are very strong on the road and it is difficult to know which Man United team will turn-up for each match. It would not surprise me one bit if either claimed all the points at Old Trafford, but I am going to back a 1-1 draw in Manchester.
Sir Bobby Charlton is currently on the field at Old Trafford witnessing the South Stand being renamed after the great man. Sir Bobby joined United as an apprentice back in 1953 and made his debut in October 1956. He went on to make 758 appearances for the club, netting a record 249 goals. There is a wonderful noise inside the stadium as Ed Woodward stands alongside Bob!
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Sir Bobby Charlton Stand! What a tribute to the legend! He looks overwhelmed to say the least as he stands alongside his wife. It is a wonderful moment and both sets of players are also applauding.
KICKOFF! Here we go then - the pre-match handshakes have been undertaken and the flags have been exchanged. Time for the football! It is the home side that get the first period underway here...
... it must be said that there is a wonderful atmosphere inside the stadium this afternoon. As expected, it has been a fast start from the home side and Martial's running wins an early throw down the left. You just get the feeling that the first goal - if there indeed is one - could be vital here.
James McCarthy goes down following a clash with Rojo and does not look comfortable here.
McCarthy is back on his feet and play resumes with Man United again breaking down the left with Rojo. No opportunities for either side in the opening five minutes, but it has been a bright start in terms of intensity and tempo, while the atmosphere inside the stadium is very good indeed.
It has been a decent last couple of minutes for Everton, with Lukaku already causing some problems and Deulofeu delivering a sensational cross which Blind just about deals with. Martial's running takes him clear down the left past Coleman, but the cross into the box is cleared by Baines.
Rojo delivers a fine cross into Rashford and the youngster looks for a super flick into Lingard, but Everton just about manage to clear for a corner. Good pressure from the home side at the moment.
A low corner from Blind finds Smalling inside the Everton box, but the centre-back cannot release a clear strike under pressure and Everton manage to clear. Very good intensity from Man United!
Deulofeu has been the main danger for Everton in the opening 11 minutes, with the Spaniard causing Blind problems in a wide position. Smart work from Cleverley wins Everton a free kick in a wide position and the visitors will have the chance to put good quality into the Man United box...
... Baines's cross causes concern inside the Man United box, but Rojo smashes down-field!
Deulofeu is causing Man United all sorts of problems with his ability to carry the ball under pressure and Blind just about steps across to prevent the Spaniard having a clear strike on goal!
Hardly time to take a breath at the moment as the end-to-end period continues! Blind is again involved for Man United as he just about prevents Lukaku from sliding the ball into Lennon.
CLOSE! Man United come close to making the breakthrough as Lingard sets up Martial, who strikes one towards the far corner, but his effort just about swings wide! So close there!
I would be astounded if there were not goals this afternoon as both teams continue to commit players in the final third of the field. Everton are very threatening in attack, but they do leave space at the back and Man United are not short of pace at the moment. Still goalless at Old Trafford though!
Everton have a free kick in a very dangerous position as Schneiderlin brings down McCarthy...
... Baines strikes the set piece, but his effort is deflected behind for an Everton corner.
Half-chance for the away side as Lukaku meets a deep corner from Baines, but his header just drops wide of the post. It was more up into the air than anything and it dropped for a goal-kick.
Referee Ander Mariner is doing his best to let the game flow at the moment and it is aiding the end-to-end contest. Rojo goes for the spectacular after a decent spell of pressure from the home side, but the left-back's volley was always wide of the post. This match is just flying past here!
CHANCE! Super from De Gea as the Man United stopper comes out to clear ahead of Lukaku after the Everton striker had rolled Smalling. De Gea was so fast off his line there!
Well, there has not exactly been a golden chance for either team in the opening 30 minutes, but both have had half-chances to make the breakthrough. Man United are almost playing on the counter-attack at the moment as Everton enjoy more of the possession all over the park here.
Smalling looks for Rashford at the far post as Man United recycle the ball in a wide position, but the striker's header was always wide of the post. Still goalless, but it is still such an open game.
You just get the feeling that the first goal - if there indeed is one - could be crucial in this match. Both teams are pushing men forward, but the overall quality in the final third has been quite poor to be honest. A lot of running and fast movement, with little care and attention to the detail in attack.
Blind, in fairness, has been very good against Lukaku in one-on-one situations and the Dutchman does brilliantly to evade a dangerous situation once again. The Red Devils then put the pressure on with a deep corner from Blind, but after Smalling rose, Schneiderlin can only head wide of the post.
Martial breaks into the Everton box once again, but Stones is across to make a fine tackle!
Much better from Man United in the last 10 minutes or so, but Everton are always a threat as they continue to look for the early pass into Lukaku, who you fancy will get chances this afternoon.
Lennon slips Smalling and delivers towards the far post, but Darmian is across to make the block. Super defending from the Italian, who just had to get there ahead of Baines at the far post.
Mata flicks a super return pass into Martial as Man United open up Everton, but the referee whistles for handball and Everton have a free kick inside their own box. Still all square at OT.
Mata delivers a cross into the Everton box, looking for the head of Rashford, but Joel is on hand to collect. It must be said that the opening 45 minutes here has absolutely flown past!
Just the one additional minute at the end of the first period.
HALF-TIME: Man United 0-0 Everton
So there we have it. The referee brings the first period to a close with the two teams level at 0-0. It has been a very open and expansive game of football, but clear chances have been at a premium. In truth, neither really did enough in the first 45 to deserve to enter the break with a half-time lead.
STATISTICS! Man United have just about shaded the possession on home soil with 54%, while they have had seven attempts, but none of them have been on target. Everton, meanwhile, managed just one attempt off target in the first 45 minutes. No bookings to report at Old Trafford.
BENCH WATCH! Man United have a host of attacking options on their bench this afternoon, with the likes of Memphis, Fellaini, Herrera and Young all available for Van Gaal in the second period. Everton boss Martinez, meanwhile, has options in the shape of Kone, Mirallas and January signing Niasse.
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RESTART! Here we go then - both sets of players re-join us on the pitch for the second period. Will we have a breakthrough at Old Trafford? Let's find out. Everton get the second 45 underway here...
... MAN UNITED SUB! Fosu-Mensah has replaced Rojo at left-back for the hosts.
Man United need a little bit more from Mata in this second period, with the Spaniard struggling to make his mark in the first 45. I suspect that Martinez will be looking for more of the same from his Everton team, although they have been better at the back than they have been going forward.
Lukaku continues to back into Blind and he manages to turn away from the centre-back, but Smalling is across on the cover to make the block. Deulofeu manages a squeeze a low cross into the near post moments later, but again it is Smalling that gets in ahead of Lukaku to clear the danger.
CHANCE! Lukaku again backs into Blind and manages to turn inside the Man United box, but his low strike is just deflected wide of the post. Excellent from Blind again there!
Blind is a touch fortunate to escape a yellow card after hauling Deulofeu to the deck.
Everton are on the front foot at the moment as they force a corner following a free kick, but Rashford does well to head clear, before Schneiderlin throws his body in the way of Cleverley!
GOAL! Man United 1-0 Everton (Martial)
Man United make the breakthrough in the 54th minute as Martial turns a low Fosu-Mensah home from close range. It was actually Joel that kicked it over the line after Baines failed to clear, but the goal goes to Martial and that was super work from the youngster Fosu-Mensah down the right!
CROSSBAR! Oh my word! Jagielka has almost taken the goal out of the ground as his header from a corner thumps off the crossbar! That had incredible power, but it stayed out!
MAN UNITED SUB! Ander Herrera replaces Carrick for the home side.
Little over 30 minutes of football remaining at Old Trafford and you just get the feeling that we have not seen the last of the goals here. Both teams continue to commit plenty forward with each attack.
CHANCE! Man United come close once again as Mata delivers a low cross into the Everton box, but Smalling cannot sort out his feet and the danger is cleared!
BOOKING! Smalling (Man United) is booked for a late challenge on Stones.
EVERTON SUB! Mirallas replaces Deulofeu in Everton's first change here.
Much better from Man United at the moment as they continue to move the ball in the final third, with Herrera adding more invention in the middle of the park. Everton just cannot get out here.
As it stands, Man United are moving into fifth and just one point off the top four, which seemed so unlikely earlier this year. Everton are still dangerous, however, with Lukaku's pace and presence continue to unnerve the home side's defence. That said, Blind has been excellent this afternoon.
Darmian and Smalling again combine to force Lukaku to commit a free kick. Pressure off.
Barkley gets the better of Fosu-Mensah in a wide position and attempts to whip the ball towards the far post, but it was always moving wide of the post and it actually goes out for a throw-in.
Lukaku looks across the line and is just and I mean just offside!
Not an awful lot to report in terms of chances in the last few minutes, but Man United are running down the clock as they keep the ball inside the Everton half. Still a lot of football to be played though.
Fosu-Mensah looks to slide a pass into Rashford and it is a wonderful idea from the full-back, but it is just too long and Everton can launch a break of their own. Very tense inside the stadium!
Man United still have one permitted change in the final 12 minutes, while Martinez has two. You just get the feeling that there is another goal in this match as Everton continue to open up in the final third. The home side have so much pace on the counter-attack that a second for Man United could arrive.
Very intense atmosphere inside the stadium at the moment as the clock continues to tick on. Man United have defended very well this afternoon, but they have started to drop ever so deep here!
Blind is on the deck for Man United and looks in trouble here.
MAN UNITED SUB! Valencia replaces Blind in Man United's third change.
Valencia, Fosu-Mensah, Smalling and Darmian is the back four for Man United now.
SAVE! Excellent stop from De Gea, who keeps out Jagielka's close-range effort!
Everton then work a free kick short into Cleverley, but his strike is blocked!
CLOSE! Stunning defending from Fosu-Mensah, who somehow clears a low cross from Lennon, which looked certain to be turned home! That is excellent from the centre-back!
EVERTON SUB! Niasse replaces Barkley for the away team.
Martial sets up Rashford inside the Everton box, but his poked effort is straight at Joel.
Four additional minutes have been added here.
BOOKING! Lingard (Man United) is booked for a trip on Stones.
Lingard races into the corner and Man United have possession deep in the Everton half here.
Brilliant defending from Valencia as he wins a free kick from Niasse in a wide position.
FULL-TIME: Man United 1-0 Everton
So there we have it. The referee brings the second period to a close with Man United recording a 1-0 win over Everton, which has moved the Red Devils into fifth and to within one point of the top four. Everton, meanwhile, remain in the bottom half. Thanks for joining Sports Mole for the action!