A crucial weekend
This is the kind of weekend that can be crucial in title races. While on Sunday two of Manchester United’s rivals for the top spot – although that might be being generous to Liverpool right now – will slug it out at Anfield, so Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have to take advantage.
Someone will drop points on Sunday, and at this stage it’s probably more beneficial to United that Liverpool beat Manchester City, but it will mean nothing if United haven’t done the job required of them on Saturday night.
Everton at home is no gimme this season – the Toffees are improving quickly under Carlo Ancelotti, but if United are at their best they should be good enough to claim all three points.
Do just that and they will be level on points with City, knowing that whatever happens on Sunday afternoon it will help them some way.
These are the weekends where the challengers can take advantage of the fixture list and United must do just that.
Given Solskjaer’s rotation policy this season it was always likely that Paul Pogba was going to get a rest at some point, but it was an added bonus that the 90 minutes against Southampton were so routine he could keep his tracksuit on all night.
That will leave the midfielder well refreshed ahead of this weekend and raring to make his mark once again.
It will be interesting to see where Solskjaer plays him. It felt like the Southampton fixture was an ideal match for Pogba and Nemanja Matic at the base of midfield, but neither were involved at all.
Playing them both against Everton might leave United slightly more exposed to the counter-attack, but then they’re in great form at the moment and confidence is high, so they should expect to dominate the ball.
United have got 22 goals in 11 home fixtures in the Premier League this season, at a perfectly respectable average of two a game. But after the destruction of Southampton at the weekend 15 of those goals have come in just two games – against Saints and Leeds.
The other nine home games have produced only seven goals and it has tended to be feast or famine at Old Trafford this season.
United have suffered six home defeats in all competitions this season, which is not a good record. They will hope the hatful of goals they netted against Southampton is a sign the dam is breaking at Old Trafford.
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Manchester United smashed nine goals past Southampton on Tuesday night as they bounced back from disappointing results against Sheffield United and Arsenal in emphatic fashion.
The game was effectively over as a contest inside the first two minutes as Southampton were reduced to 10 men, but United still had to find the goals and they did exactly that, with Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Marcus Rashford, Edinson Cavani, Anthony Martial (two), Scott McTominay, Bruno Fernandes and Daniel James all getting on the scoresheet.
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The games against Arsenal and Southampton were the first time Victor Lindelof has started back-to-back Premier League fixtures since the middle of December, with Solskjaer taking the cautious approach to managing a persistent back complaint.
Eric Bailly was an unused sub on both occasions but he’s now a doubt for the Everton fixture, which could force Lindelof into a third successive start.
Considering he’s started only six of United’s previous 13 games that would be a risk and a test of his fitness and the durability of his back for the rest of the season.
At the end of the last January window Josh King almost ended up at United. This year it was Everton that swooped to land the Norwegian attacker, who was an obvious short-term target for United a year ago, given his shared nationality with Solskjaer and his links with the club.
But most of the Premier League have been linked with the 29-year-old in the last 12 months and while his role at Everton is likely to be that of an impact sub, he will feel he’s got a point to prove tonight.
He’s scored only six goals since last January though and his form hasn’t suggested he should be a forward linked with half of the Premier League. United will rightly fear Dominic Calvert-Lewin ahead of King.