Having ended 2017 on a particularly disappointing note with a goalless draw at home to Southampton, a result that made it three Premier League games without a win, Manchester United will kick-off 2018 with a tricky trip to Goodison Park to take on Everton on New Year’s Day. The disappointing stalemate against the Saints saw Jose Mourinho’s side slip down to third place in the table and rounded off an underwhelming month that yielded just three wins from their seven league fixtures.
United will travel to Merseyside without striker Romelu Lukaku, who was stretchered off the Old Trafford pitch on Saturday following a nasty-looking clash of heads. During his post-match interview, Mourinho also revealed that Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be out of action for a month with a knee injury, leaving the Portuguese slightly stretched up front. Marcus Rashford replaced Lukaku against the Saints, whilst Anthony Martial is also an option to replace the Belgium international.
After being handed a surprise first start since the beginning of November, Henrikh Mkhitaryan missed his chance to impress Mourinho and his hugely disappointing performance at the weekend makes it unlikely that the Armenian will retain his place in the starting XI. Jesse Lingard, who missed arguably the best chance of the game against the Saints, could expect to be stationed on the right flank yet again, thanks to his impressive recent form that has seen him score six goals from his last eight appearances.
At the back, meanwhile, Victor Lindelof put in another assured display against Mauricio Pellegrino’s men and is likely to partner the impressive Phil Jones at the heart of United’s defence, despite the availability of Marcos Rojo. Ashley Young is likely to once again deputise for the injured Antonio Valencia at right-back, which could see Luke Shaw start on the opposite side for the third consecutive league fixture.
Since taking over from Ronald Koeman at the end of November, manager Sam Allardyce has turned Everton’s fortunes around and despite suffering an injury-time defeat to Bournemouth on Saturday, the Toffees sit in ninth place and in much better health than they were prior to his arrival.
United will come up against a familiar face at Goodison, in the shape of striker Wayne Rooney, the Red Devils’ all-time top scorer who departed Old Trafford after 13 years of illustrious service. Mourinho will be well aware of the threat that the 32-year-old carries and with 10 league goals to his name this season, clearly hasn’t forgotten where the back of the net is. Former United midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin is also in line to feature against his one-time employers on Monday.
Following the disappointing end to the year, United must be at their absolute best if they are to leave Goodison with all three points, although Allardyce and his Everton side will be determined to put another spanner in United’s works and continue their climb up the table.