United were held to a 2-2 draw by Stoke City last time out, a result which ended their 100 per cent record in the Premier League. Jose Mourinho will have been a little disappointed by some of his side’s defending in that match at the Bet365 Stadium, but overall the Portuguese will be satisfied with the manner in which they have begun the campaign. Critics will point out that the fixture list has been kind to the Red Devils of late, pitting them against West Ham United, Swansea City, Leicester City and Stoke, but it could be countered that the 20-time English champions struggled against opponents they were expected to beat last term. A return of 10 points from a possible 12 therefore represents a solid start, even if Mourinho will not be getting carried away by his team’s present position at the top of the table.
Everton have had a mixed start to the season, winning one, drawing one and losing two of their four games up to now. Ronald Koeman’s side have – unlike their upcoming opponents – had some tricky matches so far and while there were plenty of positives to take from their stalemate at Manchester City, the Toffees were hugely disappointing in losses to both Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur. A worrying combination of defensive slackness and attacking ineffectiveness undid Everton against both London clubs, and Koeman will be hoping to see a major improvement from his charges at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon.
United will be without Paul Pogba (hamstring), Luke Shaw (match fitness), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (knee) and Marcos Rojo (knee), with the latter two unlikely to play again until the new year. Marcus Rashford could return to the starting XI in place of Anthony Martial, who began the Champions League triumph over Basel in midweek, while Ander Herrera is likely to play as Mourinho seeks more steel, bite and control in the centre of the park. Phil Jones and Eric Bailly had both impressed prior to a shaky showing at Stoke and will be keen to demonstrate that was a one-off, while Romelu Lukaku will inevitably prove to be a handful for his former club at the other end of the field.
Everton will have to cope without James McCarthy (knee), Ross Barkley (hamstring), Ramiro Funes Mori (knee), Yannick Bolasie (knee) and Seamus Coleman (leg) for their trip across the northwest. Koeman has used a variety of different formations in the first few weeks of the season and is likely to opt for either a 3-4-2-1 or a 4-2-3-1 this weekend, with Dominic Calvert-Lewin – whose pace and movement will be vital on the counter-attack – in line to start up top. Rooney, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Davy Klaassen could all be fielded in behind, with Morgan Schneiderlin set to play an important role in midfield as he prepares to do battle with his former employers. In between the sticks, Jordan Pickford will have to be at the top of his game if Everton are to leave Old Trafford with a positive result.
Everton’s record against the big six is not great, particularly away from home; for that reason, the smart money is on a United win this weekend. Koeman’s men will look to make life difficult for their opponents and it could take a while for the deadlock to be broken, which is why backing a goalless first half is a tempting option. A home victory to nil is another bet worth considering, while Rashford – whether he starts or enters the fray as a substitute – could be an astute choice in the anytime scorer market.