By John Ryan
- Both teams look to bounce back from disappointing results on Saturday
- United set to welcome back Ibrahimović and Ander Herrera
As a player Ronald Koeman was a class act. He lacked pace but his first touch and range of passing bought him time on the ball.
As a ‘Libero’ he scored Barcelona’s winner in the 1992 Champions League final and he was part of Holland’s excellent Euro 88 side who lifted the European Nations Cup.
As a Manager Koeman is blunt and to the point. He became embroiled in a war of words with the Republic of Ireland Management last week over James McCarthy and later had to roll back on some of his comments.
His no nonsense approach has sidelined players like Ross Barkley when the manager didn’t feel his work rate was adequate and Everton have changed from being the expansive side that guaranteed goals at both ends last season, to one who can be very direct this season.
Lukaku and Barkley continue to be linked with moves away from Goodison Park. You would have to wonder if this coupled with Koeman’s public battle with Martin O’Neill have unsettled his players.
Against Liverpool they went down tamely and their away form is patchy, averaging just over a point per game. There is no doubt that players like Barkley and Lukaku possess the class to unlock opposing sides.
Lukaku’s West Brom hat-trick in Alex Ferguson’s final game as United Manager was notable as is his seventy eight premier league goals to date.
Mourinho Critical Of United’s Attackers
Jose Mourinho chose to publicly criticise his strikers after Saturday’s West Brom game. He will be relieved to be able to call on Zlatan Ibrahimović and Ander Herrera again after their respective suspensions and Zlatan’s presence if picked should lead to at least one United goal.
Paul Pogba has also trained with the side again which is encouraging in terms of creativity. The Everton fixture is clearly a must win game.
Everton won the first ever Premier League game at Old Trafford, destroying Ferguson’s men by three goals to nil. They were instrumental in denying United the title in 2012 when Marouane Fellaini, then in Blue, inspired them to come from two goals behind to draw 4-4.
Koeman has won at Old Trafford while Manager of Southampton so clearly there is potential for an upset here.
Too Many Draws At Old Trafford
Mourinho is receiving criticism in certain quarters for the eight home draws in the Premier League this season. One season from United’s past may provide a clue as to where the team is at. In the 1991/92 season United drew fifteen games, struggling to break down so called weaker sides.
The title went to Leeds that season but the year after the signing of Cantona allowed draws to become wins and the title came to Old Trafford.
If Jose can identify his Cantona this summer United have what it takes to become champions. Those nineteen points dropped at home have been an Achilles heel which has to be fixed back to health.
For now a United win is a must. With Zlatan back to lead the attack for United the Reds can be more confident when attacking.
If Pogba plays it will be interesting to see how he fares against Barkley. Everton will be difficult to break down but the importance of this game should see Mourinho’s men win.
Jose looks like a man feeling the heat. His work to date is impressive but there is no guarantee that United will win the Europa League. If United fail to qualify for the Champions League next season then it will be all the more difficult to snare that top class player to put the ball in the net.
If Koeman sets out to frustrate United we might be forgiven for thinking ‘here we go again’. But with more options than were available for the West Brom game and given how Everton have fared in both Merseyside derbies this season, if United score first Koeman’s men may not have the freedom or the patience to craft a winning comeback.
Verdict: United to win by a single goal from Zlatan.