BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
Venue: Goodison Park Date: Monday, 20 August KO 20:00 GMT
Long-term absentee Nemanja Vidic returns for Manchester United, but several other central defenders are unavailable for selection.
Rio Ferdinand injured his groin in training and joins Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Jonny Evans on the physio’s table – Michael Carrick could deputise.
However, new £24m striker Robin van Persie is expected to make his debut.
For Everton, midfielders Marouane Fellaini and Darron Gibson are doubts with groin and thigh strains.
The injury to Ferdinand is a significant blow to Sir Alex Ferguson’s side. It is unclear how long the experienced defender, who United hope will rekindle his successful partnership with Vidic, will be absent for – scan results are expected on Monday.
Smalling is expected to be out for another six weeks after surgery on a broken metatarsal, while Jones is struggling to overcome repeated back spasms.
Evans is the most likely to recover quickest but did not play during pre-season having undergone ankle surgery in May.
The eyes of the football world will be onRobin van Persie when he takes to the turf at Goodison Park. The left-footed Netherlands striker and former Arsenal captain’s move from north London to Old Trafford surprised many – United have paid a substantial transfer fee for a 29-year-old, even if he was the Premier League’s top goalscorer last season.
Another interesting narrative involves Wayne Rooney, who at the age of 26 is marking 10 years since making his top flight debut. The former Everton youngster played for the Toffees against Tottenham as a 16-year-old. He said at the weekend: “I still feel exactly the same about my football as I did when I made my debut. I’m still fairly young. I just hope I can play for another 10 years.”
Plenty are backing Rooney and Van Persie to shine under Sir Alex Ferguson’s stewardship, but Everton are expected to unveil their own potentially exciting striking partnership. Croatian forward Nikica Jelavic – who moved to Goodison Park on January transfer deadline day and scored 11 goals in 16 games – should link up well with former Rangers striking partner Steven Naismith. The 25-year-old joined as a free agent in July having scored 28 goals in 98 league appearances while in Glasgow.
Failing to find the back of the net regularly enough has undermined Everton in recent seasons and 24-year-old Kevin Mirallas will add to the club’s attacking options. Unfortunately for his new employer he signed too late to participate against Manchester United, but Everton boss David Moyes is backing his signing: “He’ll be a good addition to the squad, he’s got a track record, he was an exceptional talent in Greece where he scored a lot of goals and was very exciting over there.”
Moyes has lost the services of England international Jack Rodwell, whomoved to Manchester City for £12m earlier in the month, as well as long-serving Tim Cahill. However, he is not short of options in midfield and re-signed Steven Pienaar for Tottenham to bolster his squad. The South African failed to settle in London following his move from Merseyside 18 months ago, and is a popular player in the blue half of the city.
The Toffees will also be determined not to suffer another one of their notoriously poor starts to the campaign. “Every year it is the same story with Everton,” Steven Pienaar has said. “The players tend to wake up in the second half of the season.”
An Everton team out of the blocks quickly on Monday could pose a challenge to Manchester United but the visitors still start as favourites. However, United were also favourites when the two teams last met:Sunday 22 April and a 4-4 thriller that derailed the Red Devils’ title chase. What price that scoreline again?
- The two clubs have met on 187 occasions, United winning 81 times to Everton’s 64 victories.
- Everton have won just two of the past 10 Premier League matches at Goodison Park between the two teams.
- The highest-scoring match between the two clubs at Goodison Park came on Boxing Day in 1977, when United won 6-2.
- Seventh-place Everton had the third-best defence in the league in 2011-12, conceding just 1.05 goals on average per game.
- They lost eight of their first 14 Premier League matches last season.
- The Toffees were unbeaten in their final nine league matches of last season.
- David Moyes’ team have not finished outside the top 10 since 2005-06, when they ended the season in 11th position.
- United earned more points (89) in the 2011-12 season than any other team in English top-flight history without being crowned champions.
- They had 51 fewer shots than Liverpool in the last season, but scored 41 more goals.
- The Red Devils won 13 away matches last season, compared to just five in 2010-2011.
- They scored the most headed goals (16) in the 2011-12 Premier League, and also won more penalties (11) than any other team.