Going into gameweek 23, with the key fixture of the weekend being between Liverpool and Manchester City, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United have the huge opportunity of either closing the gap on the league leaders or extending their distance away from the teams below them, should they beat an Everton side that have been knocking around just below the top four spots.
The head-to-head amongst the two teams is predicted to be an aggressive and intense battle, as both sides have shown the high quality of energy, movement and work rate time after time this season. Not only that, but Carlo Ancelotti’s men head into the weekend as one of the best away teams in the league, as they have only lost on two out of ten occasions away from Goodison Park.
Meanwhile, for the Red Devils, the side’s home form in the league has been quite on and off, where they have won five games, lost four games and drawn twice. Although they are currently sitting in second place, United cannot afford to drop more points at Old Trafford, whether they want to challenge for the league or finish confidently in the top four, the form at home must be rock-solid.
With no further ado, here are the three key battles to look out for ahead of the fixture…
Marcus Rashford vs Mason Holgate
Although he has not consistently been involved in the goals and assists in recent weeks for his team, Marcus Rashford continues to look dangerous with his dribbling and movement on the ball as well as his linkup play down the left flank with Luke Shaw. Also, with his ability to roam into other areas of the pitch, he has shown great understanding of being a threat and a problem for the opposition on the right wing, an area that the side are missing the presence of a winger that is a consistent creator.
Rashford is expected to be up against Mason Holgate, who could potentially be the preferred option over Seamus Coleman at right-back, with his recovery pace and physicality being superior when compared to the latter. Despite being known for his natural abilities as a centre-back, the 24-year-old has the versatility to be utilised at right-back and even at defensive-midfield, which could prove to be more than useful for Ancelotti, as his squad tends to pick up a few injuries here and there.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin vs Harry Maguire
Currently on the best goal-scoring form of his life, Dominic Calvert-Lewin could certainly finish the season with 20-25 league goals under his belt, should he keep his determination and hunger for goals at a high level. The forward is only one league goal away from matching his 2019/20 Premier League season of 13 league goals, showing how far he has come as a player personally and how much he has improved since the arrival of Carlo Ancelotti at Goodison Park in December 2019.
Calvert-Lewin will be in for a really intense and physical battle with Harry Maguire, who has got the better of the Everton forward on two occasions so far this campaign. The captain of Manchester United has proven to be influential individual in the backline for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, where his leadership skills, aerial prowess and composure on the ball has helped the team, even when he is not appreciated highly by everyone. On top of that, Maguire has played in every single minute of Premier League football so far this season, and is yet to miss a game through injury or suspension.
Pogba vs Abdoulaye Doucoure
After having the perfect month at a personal level and in terms of his contributions to the team, Paul Pogba is back in business and is expected to continue to show his excellence on Saturday evening after being well rested in the mid-week fixture against Southampton. With crucial goals away to Burnley and Fulham in the league as well as a dominant performance against Liverpool in the FA Cup, the Frenchman is showing to be at his best, which is perfect news for all parties at the club.
On the other hand, for Everton, Abdoulaye Doucoure will be looking to play in the double pivot alongside Andre Gomes, where he will be hoping to nullify the threat that the Manchester United midfield pose through Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba. Along with his defensive duties and the shift he will be putting in for the team, the side will look to breakthrough and attack through the midfielder himself, as he has shown his ability to dribble and take on two-three players with ease.