Everton v Manchester United | Saturday 7th November 2020, 12:30pm | BT Sport
The wheels continue to fall off the Man Utd bus with Ole at the wheel following Wednesday’s loss to Istanbul Başakşehir in the Champions League.
That was on the back of a dismal defeat at home to Arsenal, where they recorded just two efforts on target. So, the pressure is well and truly on Solskjær ahead of this tough trip to Goodison Park, with rumours swirling of an approach for Mauricio Pochettino’s services.
After winning their first four, then drawing in the Merseyside derby, Everton have lost their last two – both without Richarlison and the Brazilian serves the final game of a three-match ban.
Meanwhile, influential summer signing James Rodríguez remains a doubt. He missed the defeat at Newcastle last weekend, so it leaves with Carlo Ancelotti with a dilemma of how to inject some creativity into his squad if both miss out.
Too close to call
If you’ve been watching CNN or following the American election coverage, then this is a phrase we’ve heard a lot over the last few days.
Back to matters at hand here, I was surprised to see Man Utd chalked up as favourites. Against Arsenal, there was no purpose, tempo or rhythm to their play, while in Turkey, their defending was horrific – tempting to say Sunday League standard, but that could be harsh on the Sunday League’s around the country.
Despite all the star quality in this Red Devils side, they actually rank third-bottom for Expected Goals For (xGF) on Infogol. Their 7.7xGF figure is just better than that of West Brom and Burnley.
In contrast, Everton’s is the joint-third best at 12.4xGF, so that paints a picture of the Toffees creating more clear-cut goalscoring opportunities, and if they do that here, they should end up triumphant.
On the data, you can see that Man Utd are conceding from very few shots on their goal. According to Fbref, they’ve faced 20 shots on David de Gea’s goal yet conceded 13 goals.
Those poor defensive displays are part of the reason they find themselves languishing in 15th place. But part of Solskjær’s dilemma is if he can find a way to get Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes and Donny van de Beek all into the same starting XI, while keeping a sense of balance.
While Ole deals with that selection headache, Carlo Ancelotti has hinted at changes after consecutive defeats. It’ll be a major boost if James is passed fit because they missed his magic at Newcastle.
André Gomes and Gylfi Sigurdsson didn’t have the impact Ancelotti would have intended playing them behind top scorer Dominic Calvert-Lewin, meaning the Italian maestro could shuffle his pack to help support DCL.
The betting angles
Everton are unbeaten in three home games this season (W2, D1), while Man Utd haven’t lost in nine away league games (W7, D2).
Neither side has been defensively strong this term, with Everton failing to keep a clean sheet in their last seven at Goodison Park, while they’ve conceded at least twice in their last four.
That vulnerability is part of the reason Robin Olsen started ahead of Jordan Pickford last weekend and the Swede made a couple of smart saves. But Man Utd can take advantage of any weakness with the returning Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, who has been involved in six goals in his last four league away games.
To me, the dynamic of this game screams something of a scrap in midfield where Allan will be doing plenty of dirty work. He ranks top for tackles in the league with 26, an average of 4.3 per game.
The lines set for the Brazilian look about right but given his work rate and the opposition, it might pay to look at him in the cards market – he’s already picked up two.
It’s 3/1 for the former Napoli man to see a card and he’s committed more fouls than any other Toffees player. That makes sense given the amount of tackles made. Plus, when you factor in how devastating the visitors have looked on the break, then he could be forced into taking one for the team.
Just to put it into perspective, he completed six of seven attempted tackles against Newcastle, while he was booked by Stuart Attwell for his only foul.
The other bet I’ll have is a smaller stakes play on Michael Keane to score a header at 16/1.
Using Fbref, it pointed out that Everton have completed the most passes from a dead-ball that have lead to an attempt at goal– that’s 17 alongside Aston Villa.
The Stockport-born defender came through the Man Utd academy, and he’s already bagged three goals from five games in all competitions at Goodison Park this season.
He’s scored twice with his noggin, so given the chances Everton have created from set-pieces this season, then it looks worth a small play in a game where I couldn’t be backing United.