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Manchester United vs Everton: Premier League match preview, likely line-ups and score prediction

Rob Meech




Wayne Rooney returns to Old Trafford for the first time tomorrow, with his Everton side hoping to bounce back from their Europa League horror show.

The Toffees suffered an embarrassing defeat against Atalanta in midweek that drew stinging criticism from manager Ronald Koeman. Everton’s task gets no easier this weekend, with a trip to face Manchester United for the second instalment of Super Sunday.

United are unbeaten in the Premier League this season and have been in scintillating form under Jose Mourinho. Even at this early stage they look like potential title winners.

Recent form

These two clubs have had contrasting fortunes to date.

With three victories and a draw, United have stepped up a level from last season where they finished sixth, 24 points adrift of champions Chelsea.

The signing of Romelu Lukaku from Everton has solved their goal scoring problems, which had resulted in too many dropped points – particularly at home – in 2016/17.

Everton had begun with campaign with high hopes, but have only amassed four points from as many games.

Back-to-back defeats against Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur suggests they are not yet ready to break into the top four.

Team news

United boss Mourinho is reeling from the news that the club’s record signing, Paul Pogba, has been ruled out for up to six weeks with a hamstring injury. He could be replaced by Ander Herrera, while Marouane Fellaini is also pushing for a start following an impressive performance against Basel in the Champions League.

Koeman, meanwhile, could ring the chances in a bid to freshen up his starting XI, although United’s all-time record scorer Wayne Rooney is set to keep his place in the side and could partner youngster Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who has been a shining light for the Toffees, in attack.

Predicted line-ups

Match prediction: Manchester United 3-1 Everton

United have regained their aura this season and will be favourites to maintain their 100 per cent home record. While the absence of Pogba is undoubtedly a blow, the Red Devils have incredible strength in depth. Everton have the capability to spring a surprise, as they showed against Manchester City last month, but their recent form is worrying.

Rob is a freelance writer, specialising in football, who previously worked as a sports journalist at the Dorset Echo. A long-standing AFC Bournemouth supporter, Rob can often be found on the terraces at the Vitality Stadium. Follow him on Twitter - @RobMeech


Why Everton are the perfect club for Theo Walcott to rebuild his career

Rob Meech



Theo Walcott

It is hard to believe Theo Walcott is only 28 years old. He burst on to the scene aged 16 for Southampton in League One and was snapped up by Arsenal shortly afterwards. His inexplicable selection for England’s 2006 World Cup squad, without playing in a single Premier League game, transformed him into an overnight star.

Big things have been expected of Walcott ever since. It’s fair to say that, despite winning 47 caps for England and making 397 appearances for Arsenal, he has failed to live up to the hype. Now, after 12 years, Walcott is bidding farewell to the Emirates and hoping to revive his flagging career under Sam Allardyce at Everton, whom he has joined for £20 million after agreeing terms on a three-and-a-half-year deal.

Speculation that Walcott’s days at Arsenal were numbered had persisted for several years, but his desire to prove himself at the club kept him in north London even when admirers came calling. His 21 goals in all competitions in the 2012/13 campaign suggested he had cracked it, but that proved to be a false dawn.

In truth, Walcott’s decision to sign for Everton was probably a no-brainer. Now in the prime of his career, he simply has to be playing regularly. The reality of how far down the pecking order he had fallen at Arsenal struck this season, when he often failed to make Arsene Wenger’s match-day squad. His last appearance for the Gunners came as a second-half substitute in the 2-1 defeat to Bournemouth.

Everton’s interest in Walcott emerged only recently, but he was clearly one of Allardyce’s top targets. One look at the Toffees’ recent form underlines why. After an immediate upturn in fortunes after the former England boss’s appointment, Everton have embarked on a winless streak that stretches back to December 18.

Lack of pace is a pressing concern and this is an attribute that Walcott possesses in abundance. The likes of Wayne Rooney and Gylfi Sigurdsson are intelligent footballers, but not the type that will blitz opposition defenders. Instead, they have relied on chipping balls over the top for the striker to chase. As such, Everton are one-dimensional and easy to play against, with no player capable of launching a counter-attack.

Also highlighting their urgent need for more firepower is the grim statistic that only rock-bottom Swansea have had fewer shots than Everton this season. New big-money signing Cenk Tosun has increased competition in the striking department but may take time to settle, whereas Walcott’s Premier League pedigree means no transitional period will be needed.

The former Southampton man’s versatility makes him an attractive proposition. For Arsenal, he predominantly featured on the right wing – either in a four-man midfield or a three-man attack – but he is equally adept at playing up top on his own, a position where he tried but ultimately failed to establish himself at the Emirates.

Potential is a word that has long been associated with Walcott. It is no longer applicable. At 28, this is possibly his final chance to realise his ambitions, both domestically and internationally. Everton, a sleeping giant, are a perfect fit. Under the auspices of major shareholder Farhad Moshiri, plans are in the pipeline for a brand-spanking new stadium to enable them to compete alongside the Premier League’s elite.

After being a peripheral figure at Arsenal for so long, Walcott has become the forgotten man of English football. For the sake of his career, he simply had to leave north London. By joining Everton, Walcott, who will wear the number 11 shirt, has the security of working under a manager who rates him highly. Now, he has the opportunity to become the player he always promised to be.

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How can Sam Allardyce plot a perfect January to continue Everton’s recent revival?



Photo: Reuters

It goes without saying that Sam Allardyce has worked wonders at Everton during his short spell in charge thus far. During the ten matches in all competitions for which he has occupied the hot-seat at Goodison Park, he has only suffered defeat in three of them (W4, D4).

This includes a seven match unbeaten run immediately after taking charge, with the Toffees defence which had conceded 46 goals in 24 games across all competitions prior to this, keeping five clean sheets in that spell.

Their good run of form has seen the Merseyside outfit surge up the Premier League table under the tutelage of ‘Big Sam’, putting real daylight between themselves and the bottom three and occupying a spot in the top ten.

It is a remarkable turnaround in particular for a defence that struggled under the guidance of previous manager Ronald Koeman and Caretaker Manager David Unsworth, difficulties that were much owed to lop-sided transfer policy back in the summer.

Aside from the acquisitions of Jordan Pickford and Michael Keane, the Everton rearguard lacked significant reinforcements, the ageing regular trio of Phil Jagielka, Ashley Williams and Leighton Baines all unable to string together consistent performances.

That aside, the long-term absence of regular right-back Seamus Coleman following injury on international duty thrust youngster Jonjoe Kenny into the mantle, a bewildering start for any youth product having been forced to deliver in a struggling side.

Mason Holgate, another youngster forcibly thrown into the mix by Koeman to try to stem the tide of conceding goals, also found regular football in the Premier League difficult to adapt to.

Add the obvious lack of a prolific forward to replace the departed Romelu Lukaku to that formula, and it is clear to see where the problems lay. The return of Wayne Rooney, plus the heavy investment into recruiting Sandro Ramírez (Málaga), Davy Klaassen (Ajax), and record-signing Gylfi Sigurdsson (Swansea), appeared a waste of resources.

The trio failed to produce in an Everton side that scored just seven times in the opening nine Premier League games of the season prior to Koeman’s dismissal, a lack of productivity that heaped pressure on another youngster at the club, England U-20 World Cup winning striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who struggled to produce.

Only the recall of Oumar Niasse to the side, a striker that Koeman had essentially left out in the cold, provided the Dutchman with a stay of execution, after the Senegalese struck twice to claim a key 2-1 win over Bournemouth in September. Nonetheless, this was a victory which only papered over the obvious cracks.

Since Allardyce has taken the helm, not only has he been able to tighten one of the Premier League’s leakiest defences, but he has started to coax some goalscoring form from the likes of Rooney, Calvert-Lewin, and Sigurdsson.

With Everton now having gone four games without a win, however, including three successive defeats in league and cup to Bournemouth, Manchester United, and local rivals Liverpool, Big Sam will know that he still cannot take the January transfer window lightly and must recruit wisely to continue the club’s remarkable revival.

Despite reinvigorating the club’s crop of forwards, a striker is still high on the list of priorities as it was prior to his arrival, with the club mainly winning games thanks to its ability to defend rather than profiting from a wealth of ot-and-out goalscorers. However, Allardyce has already gone some way toward remedying that need with the £27 million signing of Besiktas frontman Cenk Tosun.

Described by Turkish journalist Emre Saigul, on the Sky Transfer Talk Podcast, as a forward who is ‘physical, two-footed and works himself into the ground’, Allardyce appears to have addressed Everton’s lack of physicality up-front.

Since losing Lukaku, the Toffees have lacked a presence in opposition penalty areas, and Tosun offers that presence in abundance, as well as fitting in to Big Sam’s defensive philosophy by pressing the opposition on the ball and working hard to track back and help the team defend as a unit.

He is no stranger to finding the goal either, having netted 41 times in 96 appearances in the black and white of Besiktas, as well as scoring eight times in 25 appearances for Turkey.

The signing of Tosun equally demonstrates a more sensible use of the club’s funds, with Allardyce telling BBC Sport that the forward was the ‘best available’ at his price. The new manager is clearly keen to avoid the frittering way of resources on players that was visibly going on under Koeman’s management.

Yet that may not be all for Allardyce’s business in the market in terms of strengthening his hand going forward. Sandro Ramírez has struggled to settle in England since arriving from Málaga, Dominic Calvert-Lewin remains talented but rather raw, and Oumar Niasse despite chipping in with important goals has struggled to earn a consistent run in the team.

With a forward’s presence being of importance to Big Sam as well as his ratio of goals, one option Allardyce could do worse than turn to is that of his former colleague at Crystal Palace, Christian Benteke.

The Belgian forward has struggled to recapture the form that he enjoyed under Allardyce at Selhurst Park this season, but with the service he’d enjoy at a re-invigorated Everton, he may prove the final piece of the attacking puzzle at Goodison.

Not only is he a proven goalscorer in the Premier League, but he provides the perfect alternative to Sandro in terms of offering a physical presence, and much like Tosun and more notably Romelu Lukaku, is proficient in the air, an area where the Toffees have struggled to take full advantage this campaign.

The affiliation of the two from their days at Palace would also suggest that Allardyce already has an idea of how to best utilise the attributes of Benteke in his side.

Of course, Olivier Giroud, a transfer target for Everton back in August, may be back on the list of options, but given his impact from the bench for Arsenal this season coupled with Koeman’s failure to bring him to the club over the summer, renders Benteke the far more realistic venture.

In terms of the remainder of his squad, Allardyce appears to have established a balance in the Everton midfield.

Aided by the return to fitness of both Yannick Bolasie and James McCarthy, as well as the return to form of Morgan Schneiderlin, Idrissa Gueye and Gylfi Sigurdsson, Allardyce is getting the best out of his wealth of options, with Davy Klaassen, Ademola Lookman, Tom Davies, and Nikola Vlasic all options in reserve. It is highly likely, therefore, that any further additions would be in defence.

With Seamus Coleman building his fitness following injury and Jonjoe Kenny having excelled under Big Sam in his stead, the right-back position is already in safe hands. Cuco Martina has also been steady if unspectacular in the injury-enforced absence of Leighton Baines, so he may be tempted to stick rather than twist for the time being. The centre-back position, however, is notably vulnerable.

Michael Keane had enjoyed a run in the first-team under Koeman, but unable to adapt to playing out from the back at Everton, has found himself falling down the pecking order under Big Sam, and he was left out of the Everton squad for the FA Cup Merseyside Derby at Anfield.

Ramiro Funes-Mori remains a long-term absentee with a serious knee injury, and Ashley Williams has struggled for form compared to his exploits the previous season, leaving the inexperienced Mason Holgate the only other option to partner club captain Phil Jagielka in the heart of the defence, a player himself who is at the twilight of his career at the age of 35.

Holgate’s inexperience was harshly exposed during Everton’s most recent outing against Liverpool, the youngster giving away a needless spot-kick which handed the Reds the initiative, before being fortunate to escape a red card following a push on Brazilian forward Roberto Firmino.

With all of this in consideration, Allardyce could do worse than bring in one more centre-half to add some reliability to his options and there are several available options in the market that he could target in January.

Of the options that would command a fee, one may be Napoli’s French centre-half Kalidou Koulibaly. The 6ft 5in left-footed defender is known for his ability to play out from the back, and is accustomed to playing a possession-orientated style of football at Napoli.

Although Everton differ in the way they often dig-in against stronger opposition, Koulibaly’s coolness at the back would help Everton retain the ball rather than rush with panicked clearances, an attribute which could make the Toffees all the more deadly on the break.

Everton would have to invest to secure his services, but it is not as if they lack resources under Farhad Moshiri’s majority ownership, it simply begs the question as to whether Allardyce would be so forthcoming with the resources available.

Another centre-back in a similar mould Everton may turn to is Koulibaly’s compatriot at Athletic Bilbao, Aymeric Laporte.

He is another defender who provides an aerial presence but specialises in playing the ball out from the back, the only pitfall being that the Toffees may struggle to influence the player to move to Merseyside should any interest come from elsewhere in the Premier League or in Spain.

Yet, one realistic option should Allardyce turn to Europe, may be Bayer Leverkusen defender Jonathan Tah.

The natural centre-half is able to double up as a left-back to help add more depth in that position, and is a defender that typifies what Allardyce defences are all about, with size and aggression in the challenge giving way to composure in possession, not only helping to win back the ball but then rebuild from the back.

The only pitfall in Tah’s case is that he has never played outside the Bundesliga, and it may be a gamble in terms of how he adapts to the added pace and intensity of the Premier League.

Should Big Sam wish to recruit a defender with such experience under his belt, one shrewd signing he’d do well to make would be that of Middlesbrough defender Ben Gibson.

Billed as a future England prospect prior to Middlesbrough’s relegation from the Premier League last season, Gibson has subsequently slipped through the net for the Three Lions amidst call-ups for Harry Maguire, John Stones, and Everton’s own Michael Keane.

The Boro have found life back in the second-tier harder than anticipated, and following the sacking of Garry Monk and the appointment of Tony Pulis as manager, they find themselves eighth and in striking distance of the playoffs, with Gibson still an ever-present.

That elusive England cap may seem a way off, but he remains a perfect left-footed option in defence to slot-in alongside any options Everton currently have, and may be the perfect youthful centre-half to feature next to Phil Jagielka and challenge the struggling Keane.

With age on the side of both, it would represent a significant investment into the future of Everton’s defensive partnership, with Keane and Gibson having the potential to form a formidable duo in the long-term. Gibson’s price-tag compared to the options available on the continent, may also render him a realistic option for Big Sam to pursue.

What is for sure is that with only one signing through the door at Goodison so far this January, Allardyce’s transfer business is far from over.

It will almost certainly take until next season for his mark to really show on this Everton side, but in the short-term given Allardyce’s remarkable transformation of Koeman’s struggling squad, Toffees fans can have much to look forward to as the club remain on course for a top-ten finish and a chance of returning to the Europa League for 2018/19.

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Who is Cenk Tosun, Everton’s £27 million signing from Besiktas?



Photo: Reuters

After a troublesome opening to the 2017-18 Premier League campaign, new Everton boss Sam Allardyce has wasted little time in making his mark after it was announced that a deal has been completed for Besiktas striker Cenk Tosun.

Despite spending well over £100million during the summer transfer window on a number of well-known players from across Europe the Toffees new-look squad have struggled to gel together, leaving them inside the bottom three in late October and resulting in the sacking of Ronald Koeman.

The Everton board took their time in finding a new man in charge, with David Unsworth managing standing at the helm for five weeks before appointing survival extraordinaire Allardyce.

But results have already remarkedly improved in the ten games since the former England manager took over, winning six of his first seven matches and going nine games without tasting defeat to ease any real relegation worries and lift Everton into the top-half.

It seems that Allardyce has well and truly steadied the ship on Merseyside and it’s now his time to start putting his own slant on the squad, beginning by filling the massive hole left by Romelu Lukaku.

The Boot Room takes a look at Everton’s new £27million striker, Cenk Tosun.

Who is Everton’s new signing?

Born in Germany, Tosun began his footballing career at Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt in their youth ranks from the age of six, working his way up the age groups before breaking into the reserves.

Despite featuring heavily for their reserve side he struggled to make the leap into first-team, and Bundesliga, football, making just one appearance when he came off the bench as a 75th minute sub back in 2010.

His frustration at a lack of game-time in Germany led him to Turkish Super Lig side Gaziantepsor, and he made an immediate impression by scoring 10 goals in just 14 appearances during his first season.

It was there that he was awarded his debut call-up to the Turkish national side in 2013, coming on late against the Netherlands in a World Cup qualifier to make his international bow, and it was during this breakthrough year that he caught the eye of Turkish giants Besiktas.

The 15-time Super Lig winners secured the services of Tosun on a five-year deal back in 2014 and, despite playing second-fiddle to both Demba Ba and Mario Gomez for a few seasons, the young striker became a regular for the 2016-17 campaign and repaid the faith with 24 goals in another title-winning year for Besiktas.

It was this level of performance that caught the eye of Crystal Palace over the summer, according to the Evening Standard, but Tosun decided against a move to England and recently helped his side reach the Champions League last-16.

He’s also continued to impose himself on the international stage, scoring five times in Turkey’s recent World Cup qualifying campaign to end as their top-scorer – despite the fact they failed to make the finals in Russia later this year.

What does the Turkey international have to offer the Toffees?

On paper, he has the attributes needed to be a success story for a meagre price.

The 26-year-old might not be known for his speed, and he won’t win many foot races with the Premier League’s quickest defenders, but he’s an intelligent striker and has a keen eye for goal.

Much like Lukaku before him he’s more than capable of scoring with both feet as well as with his head, and this triple threat could really benefit an Everton side with only 25 goals from 22 games.

His record speaks for itself, finding the net 24 times for Besiktas last season in 45 appearances before continuing this form into the opening half of 2017-18 where he’s scored 12 times in just 22 matches, and it’s fair to say he’s a man brimming with confidence.

His proven prowess runs deeper than just goals though, earning eight assists over the past 12 months, and it’s this ability to be unselfish that could help Everton’s attacking midfielders thrive.

At 26-year-old he’s at the peak of his physical form and after playing in a rough Turkish league he will be more than up for the Premier League’s physicality, holding the ball up for his new teammates.

There will no doubt be those claiming that the Turkish league doesn’t compare to the test of the Premier League, and they may be right, but he’s proven himself to be a potent threat in the Champions League group stages and he has helped Besiktas progress with four goals in six matches.

Time will tell whether he has the potential to make an impact in a whole new league but at little over £27million in the current market it can be considered a steal, and Tosun could be worth a risk.

Where will he fit in at Goodison Park?

This is perhaps a more straightforward question.

It’s been no secret over the opening four months of the Premier League season that a glaring error was made by those in charge of recruitment at Goodison Park when they failed to replace star forward Romelu Lukaku following his £75million switch to Manchester United during the summer.

To say it was an oversight from ex-boss Ronald Koeman to re-invest that money in every position except from a striker would be massively underplaying it, and Allardyce has made no such mistake.

The likes of Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Oumar Niasse have both showed promise at different times this season but neither are likely to get close to Lukaku’s ability to consistently find the net on 20 occasions, with the Belgian setting a high precedent with his record 25 goal haul achieved last year.

Tosun will be used to spear-head a limp Everton attack, acting as a focal figure for the Toffees’ attacking midfielders and giving them an outlet in front of goal that has proven himself in Europe.

It would be little surprise to see him thrown in at the deep end as soon as possible too, and Allardyce will be hoping that he can be the player to start to pull the Everton jigsaw together.

What has Allardyce had to say?

It appears that the Everton boss has had his eyes firmly set on the 26-year-old for a while now, claiming in a recent interview with BBC Sport that he hopes Tosun will show that he’s good value for money in the current market.

In the same interview, he went on to say:

“I think that if we get the transfer done and he is successful by scoring a lot of goals for us then it will be an exceptionally good deal that we’ve done.

“It’ll be down to him when he signs on to prove us all right.”

Tosun could be set for his first appearance in an Everton shirt – and for his Premier League debut – as soon as next Saturday afternoon when the Toffees travel to Wembley Stadium to face Tottenham.

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