After the excitement and pleasure of seeing Everton bounce back from so many recent set-backs to beat Chelsea 3-1 in Duncan Ferguson’s first game, the Blues travel to Old Trafford this weekend.
Following another week of constant speculation over who might become the new Everton permanent manager, the club confirmed that Ferguson will continue on Sunday against Manchester United.
Will the big Scot be able to inspire the same kind of robust, throwback performance as he did last Saturday, when the Toffees take on United?
Obviously I hope so! It is a very important game, not just for Ferguson but for Everton too. The Blues need to try to maintain the positive vibes from Saturday’s win at Goodison Park, although I think a point will be an acceptable result on Sunday.
It won’t be easy for Everton to get something from this match. The Blues have a dreadful recent record at Old Trafford and United are coming off the back of two fine wins over Tottenham and Manchester City that have reignited their season.
The Toffees last win at the ‘theatre of dreams’, was back in the 2013-14 season, when Bryan Oviedo scored in a 1-0 win there during Roberto Martinez’s first season in charge. More of the same would be very welcome big Dunc!
United themselves have had an up and down campaign, which has left their manager Ole Gunnar Solksjaar under quite a lot of pressure.
There are of course some parallels between his situation and Ferguson. Like the Scot, he was heralded for the immediate transformation he achieved, when he took over midway through last season from Jose Mourinho.
After a flying start however things started to unravel and United limped through the final quarter of the season. One of their worst defeats was that 4-0 thumping the Toffees handed out at Goodison Park in April.
Inevitably there were questions about the wisdom of giving the managerial reigns permanently to a former striker and fan’s idol and not going for a more established coach. Just as there might be with Ferguson.
The Old Trafford outfit started inconsistently again this season, but recently have exhibited signs that they might be turning the corner under the Norwegian.
The win against Spurs was an important victory. Tottenham came into that game with the boost they had gained from their own managerial change, as Jose Mourinho had taken over from Mauricio Pochettino. Mourinho was also desperate to get one over on United after his turbulent period at Old Trafford.
Solksjaar’s side though, produced their best performance to date, and deservedly beat Spurs 2-1. United created lots of chances and their young players were excellent. It was more like the kind of style too that United fans expect to see from their team.
They then followed that up with a similar performance and a superb win at their neighbour’s, as they defeated the champions City to leave them even further adrift of Liverpool and Leicester City in the title race.
Players like Marcus Rashford seem to be finding their feet under Solksjaar and he is producing the kind of form that he first showed when he broke into the team. He is a talented and dangerous player and one the Blues need to keep under wraps on Sunday.
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As for the Toffees, there are a few injury concerns with Ferguson waiting on the fitness of Lucas Digne, Yerry Mina, Fabian Delph and Theo Walcott.
If Walcott isn’t fit then I would move Alex Iwobi to the right and bring Bernard back, something I’d be inclined to do anyway. As for Mina, while I’d like to see him back ideally, I think Micheal Keane can continue to deputise.
Instinctively I would assume that Ferguson will adopt the same tactical approach and line up with a 4-4-2 type system, looking to keep it tight defensively.
I think it makes sense for this game to continue with the same system if possible, not least because of injuries, especially in midfield. It’s a case of keeping it simple and juggling players to maintain a solid consistent shape for what is likely to be a testing away game.
As usual I don’t make predictions for an Everton game, although I think that to be honest the best the Blues will get from the match is a point. Hopefully I am proved wrong on Sunday!