Ten points from the last five games will guarantee the title for Manchester United and after Tuesday’s goalless draw against Newcastle, United will be very grateful that that’s still the case. Arsenal’s failure to see out a two goal lead over Spurs on Wednesday night means that United ended the mid-week fixtures with the six point advantage they held over their nearest rivals intact.
The bad news is that Chelsea’s recent form has seen them join Arsenal on 64 points and to dismiss their title credentials would be idiotic. Both London clubs will be keeping a keen-eye on proceedings at Old Trafford to see if Everton can do them a huge favour and become only the second team to take points from Old Trafford this season.
It’s been this form at Old Trafford that has taken United to the summit of the Premier League and if The Reds are to regain the title it will be done with a record low of away victories since the League’s inception in 1992. Victory over Everton is of the utmost importance this weekend, and United will need to recover their goalscoring touch after firing blanks in the last two fixtures.
It remains to be seen whether or not Dimitar Berbatov will be in the 18 tomorrow after his dropping from the squad on Tuesday night. Javier Hernandez and Wayne Rooney are expected to continue up front but Berbatov’s presence on the bench would be a boost for United if things aren’t going to plan. There are some who question Berbatov’s ability to change things when coming on from the bench but it’s worth remembering that over the last four weeks alone he came on at West Ham with United 2-0 down to deliver a superb 30 minute cameo and also score the winning goal against Bolton.
Chris Smalling will most probably start his 9th League game in a row with Rio Ferdinand likely to be rested for Tuesday’s Champions League Semi-Final first leg tie against Schalke. Rafael is still struggling with the knee injury picked up against Chelsea in the Champions League, so John O’Shea is anticipated to continue at right-back. However Sir Alex Ferguson may decide to go with Fabio da Silva over the experienced Irishman to give United more speed in attack. Fabio was impressive against West Ham in his last league start and has been unlucky to lose out to O’Shea in the games that have followed his brother’s injury.
Paul Scholes will be unavailable for the game after his red-card against Manchester City last Saturday and Darren Fletcher continues to struggle with a mystery virus that has kept him out of action since a substitute appearance against Liverpool at the beginning of March. It means that Michael Carrick is a certainty to continue in midfield and will be partnered by either Anderson or Darron Gibson.
Resurgent Everton have climbed up the table after an inconsistent first-half of the season that left them lingering in the lower third of the standings. They now find themselves seventh after a good run of form and they could yet overtake local-rivals Liverpool into sixth place and potentially gain a Europa League place that’s dependent on the outcome of the FA Cup Final and Manchester City’s final league position.
After winning only six of their opening 26 games, The Toffees are unbeaten in their last seven – winning five and drawing two, and will hold no fear when coming to Old Trafford against a team that hasn’t beaten them since November 2009.
If United are to win the League this year, victory over Everton is paramount otherwise Arsenal and now Chelsea will have their title aspirations reinvigorated once more.
Referee: Peter Walton
Last five meetings:
11/09/10 – Everton 3-3 United
20/02/10 – Everton 3-1 United
21/11/09 – United 3-0 Everton
19/04/09 – United 0-0 Everton
31/01/09 – United 1-0 Everton