Everton v Manchester United | Monday 20 August | Goodison Park | 21:00
It may have been only fourteen weeks since Sergio Aguero’s right foot provided the most thrilling finale to an English Premier League season in memory, but it feels like ages. It always does. Even in a summer filled with European Championships and the Olympics, there is nothing quite like the thrills and spills of the most widely watched football league in the world. Last season saw the race for the Premier League title transforming into a battle for being crowned the best in Manchester. The two Manchester clubs – City and United – were a cut above the rest, a fact that was reflected in the final league table with third placed Arsenal lagging behind the Manchester duo by a staggering 19 points. The pick of the first round of fixtures sees last seasons’ runners-up, Manchester United, travel to Liverpool to face David Moyes’ Everton.
To Win (90mins)
Manchester United 19/20
Everton had a superb second half of the 2011/12 season, eventually finishing seventh on the table, four points ahead of city rivals Liverpool. The Toffees will start the league in good spirits, with the permanent signing of Steven Pienaar and the capture of former Rangers attacker Steven Naismith. Naismith declared himself to Evertonians in style, with a hat-trick during Tony Hibbert’s testimonial match against AEK Athens. They will be hoping for a much better start than they have had in recent seasons and the ducks are certainly in a row, especially compared to this time 12 months ago.
A full season of striker Nikica Jelavic linking up with Marouane Fellaini, Steven Pienaar, Leighton Baines and Steven Naismith is a tantalising prospect for Evertonians, and the dread that heralded the start of last season has been replaced with optimism. Even the sale of Jack Rodwell to Manchester City and Tim Cahill to New York Red Bulls has not truly dampened the mood around Goodison Park. Everton’s pre-season results were mixed with good wins over Morecambe, Dundee United and AEK Athens, and losses against Blackpool and Malaga as well as a draw against Motherwell. However, only their match against AEK was played at home.
After their last minute title heartbreak last season, Manchester United will be aiming to re-assert their dominance on both the domestic and European stages this campaign. Manchester United completed their pre-season preparations by edging a seven-goal thriller at Hannover. Wayne Rooney scored twice, one a free-kick and the other a penalty, and new recruit Shinji Kagawa netted the winner as the Red Devils came back from 1-0 and 3-1 down to win 4-3.
Ferguson has acquired the services of Japanese playmaker Shinji Kagawa and the promising youngster Nick Powell, though the latter due to his tender age and lack of experience at top level is one for the future. Kagawa, on the other hand, comes with a big reputation on the back of two title winning seasons with Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga, where he was one of the outstanding stars. A big plus is the return of captain Nemanja Vidic who missed the majority of last season. In the absence of Phil Jones, Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling, Rio Ferdinand will complete a first choice centre-paring.
Verdict: Manchester United 19/20
Everton and Manchester United have served up some exciting clashes in past seasons, with the Merseysiders raising their game against the big guns. The two drew 4-4 at Old Trafford in their last meeting with United winning this fixture 1-0 in the first round. With Shinji Kagawa added to the attacking threat of Wayne Rooney, Antonio Valencia and either Ashley Young or Nani, they look a formidable force. United had the best away record last season, losing just three matches, drawing three and winning 13. Back the Red Devils to start the season with a victory.
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Written by @Wayde_D for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!