UNDER-PRESSURE Manchester United host swashbuckling Everton on Super Sunday and English football specialist Gab Sutton (@_FootbalLab) looks for the value.
Manchester United v Everton | Sunday 28th October 2018, 16:00 | Sky Sports
Turn the clock back to December 2013.
Manchester United had endured a difficult start to life after Sir Alex Ferguson and many fans were not too happy with the lack of pace and creativity displayed under his successor, David Moyes.
A 1-0 home defeat to the Scot’s former club, Everton, was inflicted by a late goal from left-back Bryan Oviedo (Leighton Baines was injured), set up by right-back Seamus Coleman, highlighting the adventurous philosophy of Toffees boss Roberto Martinez.
That victory not only took the Merseysiders five clear of United, it also led to claims that Martinez would have been a better replacement for Ferguson.
Five years later, the same fixture takes place in very similar circumstances.
Theatre of nightmares
In two of Manchester United’s four full post-Fergie seasons, their away record has been better than their home form.
This season looks set to follow that trajectory, too. The Red Devils have scored just eight goals in seven Old Trafford encounters in all competitions, winning just twice on familiar soil.
By way of comparison, they have scored 12 in six on the road and won three times.
At least one factor behind this is the club’s excellent away support. Naturally, United have fewer fans on the road but they have more of an impact because a large proportion of them are unconditionally behind the manager and team.
When they play at home, the atmosphere can be slightly more subdued and sometimes that can encourage the opposition.
Everton showed in their 2-0 loss at Arsenal last month that they can produce competitive performances against the big clubs in this division.
The average player positions map shows they typically pushed as many as six players into the opposing half, which highlights Marco Silva’s tactical bravery.
They out-shot the Gunners 10-9 and 6-5 on target; while wasteful finishing proved their downfall in North London, they should have more confidence after subsequently managing seven goals in three.
Silva’s side have taken 67 shots this season from inside the penalty area, which is four more than their hosts.
The tactics board
Manchester United’s squad is expensively-assembled, it is also imbalanced in favour of attacking players; Ed Woodward has prioritised shirt-selling signings rather than ones that most benefit the team.
When their opponents defend deep, they find it easy to get the ball into stars like Paul Pogba, Juan Mata and Anthony Martial.
When opponents press with any vigour, however, they very quickly sink into a defensive 4-5-1 shape which leaves key creators and speedsters too far away from Romelu Lukaku, who then cuts a forlorn figure up top.
It seems likely that a proactive tactician like Silva will spot that trend and encourage his troops to close down aggressively and force clearances, so that the tenacious Idrissa Gueye and the composed Andre Gomes are then in pole position to win second balls and cut out the lanes into Lukaku.
If Everton can do that, then they have already shown plenty of times this season that they can put together some incisive passing moves; either down the left-sided partnership of Bernard and Lucas Digne, who could bamboozle Ashley Young, or by using the mobility of Richarlison against Chris Smalling.
While Jose Mourinho has potentially everything to lose on Sunday, it is almost the opposite scenario for his younger compatriot and that could be reflected on the pitch.
Sigurdsson to strike?
Gylfi Sigurdsson has had 15 shots from outside the box – more than any attacking midfielder in the Premier League. The Icelander, who has scored three goals in his last three for the Blues and three in his last four visits to Old Trafford, is 21/5 with Unibet to score anytime.
For comparison, that is a bigger price than United’s Tahith Chong, an 18-year-old yet to feature in a competitive match, can be found in the same market.
The betting angle
Everton and Over 1.5 goals can be found at 31/5 with 188BET; those quotes imply a probability of 14%. In fact, that bet would have landed in 44% of the Toffees’ Premier League encounters this season while 33% of United’s games have ended in a defeat featuring two or more goals.
Getting with the Merseysiders is the way to go.