Preview: Everton v United
Date, time and coverage
Monday 20 August 2012, 20:00 BST kick-off. Live on Sky Sports in the UK. You can also follow the match live on ManUtd.com with text and radio commentary.
For obvious reasons, it is difficult to assess form for the opening match of the Barclays Premier League season, as quite simply, neither team has played competitive football since 13 May. Having said that, United arrive at Goodison Park on the back of a highly successful DHL tour during which the Reds played six games, winning four and drawing one. The one loss, at the hands of Barcelona, was only on penalties. The Toffees, meanwhile, nabbed three wins from their six warm-up clashes but lost most recently to Malaga in Spain.
The Reds are rated as 4/5 favourites to start the campaign with a win (the draw is 5/2 and the Toffees are out at 17/5). United fans will be hoping Robin van Persie features at Goodison Park and the former Arsenal striker can be backed at 6/5 to score a debut goal or 9/2 to break the deadlock. Register here with bwin and if you wager £5 or more on the match, you will be automatically entered into a prize draw for two Old Trafford season tickets, signed shirts and £100 free bets.
Ins and outs
Sir Alex Ferguson looks set to hand official debuts to new signings van Persie and Shinji Kagawa on Monday, while fellow new recruit Nick Powell could feature on the bench.The boss is also due to recall captain Nemanja Vidic, who hasn’t played a competitive game since December 2011. Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans are all sidelined through injury. Everton manager David Moyes has also been busy in the transfer window, bringing in Stephen Naismith from cash-strapped Rangers and Stephen Pienaar from Tottenham on a permanent deal. Both are expected to start. However, the Blues boss has lost Tim Cahill, who now plays for the New York Red Bulls.
While some fans cite Sergio Aguero’s last-gasp strike on the final day of last season as the true turning point of the title race, most will refer to United’s late collapse against Everton at Old Trafford. The Reds were 4-2 up and on course to maintain a three point lead over Man City as the game entered the final stages, until late goals from Nikica Jelavic and Pienaar – then on loan – sealed a 4-4 draw which blew the title race wide open.
After celebrating his 10th anniversary as Everton manager in March, many wondered whether David Moyes might seek a different adventure elsewhere. However, the former Preston North End boss, quite characteristically, remained loyal to the cause and heads into the 2012/13 campaign with fresh optimism following an impressive end to last term. After a stuttering start, Moyes guided the Toffees to a seventh-placed finish, winning the battle to finish above local rivals Liverpool.
Widely regarded as one of last season’s best buys, Nikica Jelavic quickly become a fans’ favourite at Goodison Park having signed from Rangers on the final day of the January transfer window. After making his debut against Wigan as a substitute, the powerful Croatian went on to score an impressive 11 goals in 13 appearances, including two against the Reds in M16 last April.
“The Monday night start doesn’t bother me. That’s not a big factor. The fact it’s Everton away holds much more weight. It’s a tough fixture and we’ve not found it easy there in recent years, despite some good results.” – Sir Alex Ferguson
Sir Alex has confirmed new-signing van Persie should be available for selection against Everton, so expect the reigning PFA Player of the Year to make his debut, either from the start or the bench. The Dutch striker could also line up alongside Rooney, who is braced for another return to his former club following his own move to the Theatre of Dreams in 2004.
Van Persie’s former club Arsenal are in action at home to Sunderland on Saturday afternoon, before Chelsea travel to Wigan and Manchester City host Southampton on Sunday.