Verdict: Under 2.5 goals
Best Odds: 8/13
Without a win in their last four attempts, Jose Mourinho will be desperate to start 2018 with a win. 15 points off runaway league leaders Manchester City, the Red Devils will now be fully focused on securing a top-four finish come May. On New Years Day, Mourinho’s men will travel to Merseyside to face an Everton side who’s eight-match unbeaten run came to an end last weekend.
For Everton, it appears that Sam Allardyce’s honeymoon period at Goodison Park has come to an end. Prior to their trip down the south coast to face Bournemouth on Saturday afternoon, the Toffees were a side on an eight-game unbeaten run. Picking up consecutive 0-0 draw’s against Chelsea and West Brom before their defeat against the Cherries, Allardyce will be looking for his first win in his past four matches. Despite their blip last weekend, Everton have successfully avoided being dragged further into a relegation battle. Currently sat ninth in the table, the Toffees are nine points adrift of the drop zone.
A key part in Everton’s revival had been their defensive improvements. Coming off the back of consecutive 0-0 draws against West Brom and the defending champions Chelsea, Everton have now only conceded four goals in their last eight league games. Highlighting their improvements, prior to Allardyce taking over last month, they had gone 12 top-flight matches without a clean sheet, conceding 28 times. The return of Wayne Rooney has also added some much-needed experience into Everton’s ranks. Returning for his second spell at Goodison Park, Everton’s captain is set to be recalled to Everton’s XI after starting on the bench against Bournemouth. The Toffees will also be boosted by their recent form when playing at Goodison, unbeaten in their last five home matches, Everton have won four of those games and have not lost at Merseyside since October.
Everton will monitor James McCarthy and Yannick Bolasie before deciding whether to start the duo at Goodison Park with McCarthy lasting just half the game during Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Bournemouth.
Idrissa Gueye should feature again after recovering from hamstring trouble, with Leighton Baines and Ross Barkley still sidelined.
Without a win since their shocking 2-1 defeat against Championship side Bristol City earlier this month, Manchester United have now failed to beat Southampton, Burnley, and Leicester in consecutive games. Argueably going through their worst spell under Jose Mourinho, things weren’t made any better when Romelu Lukaku was stretchered off with a head injury on Saturday’s 0-0 draw with the Saints. With Lukaku set to miss the next two matches, the Red Devils will also be without Zlatan Ibrahimovic until the end of January. With no recognized other out an out center-forward at their disposal, 20-year-old Marcus Rashford appears to be entrusted with the number nine role, the 20-year-old forward has one goal in his last seven games.
Now sat 15 points adrift of their noisy neighbours at the top of the table, Jose Mourinho’s side have dropped down to third in the table for only the second time this season. A single point behind the defending champions Chelsea, Jose Mourinho’s main objective must be to guarantee a top-four finish come the end of the season. If United want to get their season back on track in the new year, they will have to improve defensively. On their travels away from Old Trafford, United have not managed to keep a clean sheet on the road since their 0-0 draw with Liverpool in the middle of October. Conceding at least one goal in eight of their last 10 Premier League appearances, United’s mistakes have cost them a vital number of points. This season alone, Mourinho’s men have already dropped 11 points against teams outside the top six.
Manchester United are without strikers Romelu Lukaku and Zlatan Ibrahimovic for the trip to Merseyside. Lukaku will miss at least two games after suffering a head injury against Southampton, while Ibrahimovic faces a month out with a recurrence of his knee problems.
Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini and Eric Bailly remain sidelined, with question marks over Chris Smalling, Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian.
Key Factors to Consider
- Manchester United are unbeaten in the last six league and cup meetings against Everton (W4, D2).
- The Toffees are unbeaten in their last five Premier League home games, winning four of those fixtures.
- Sam Allardyce has won just one of his last 21 Premier League games against Manchester United (D5, L15).
- The Reds kept clean sheets in three of their first four Premier League away games this season, but have failed to record a shut-out in their subsequent six matches on the road.
- They could remain winless in five consecutive matches in all competitions for the first time since a run of eight in a row under Louis van Gaal from November to December 2015.
With Man United’s confidence arguably at an all-time low under Jose Mourinho’s reign, a trip to Goodison could prove to be a difficult start to the New Year for the Portuguese tactician. With both Romelu Lukaku and Zlatan Ibrahimovic missing out, United could struggle for goals as they did against Southampton last weekend. Coupled with United’s potential attacking problems, Everton are also a side going through a mini goal drought. Only finding the net once in their last three matches, backing under 2.5 goals at Goodison seems like a logical bet here.
Verdict: Under 2.5 goals
Best Odds: 8/13
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