Weblog: The football punter

Goals could be in short supply at Goodison Park

Sky Sports Premier League, 5.30pm Monday

It was a difficult end to 2017 for Manchester United and the new year may not be plain sailing for the rocked Red Devils against Everton.

Goodison Park has not been a happy hunting ground for United anyway. They have been victorious in only one of their last five visits to the Merseyside venue and this is likely to turn into a battle as Jose Mourinho's men look to snap a four-match winless sequence.

United are definitely missing Zlatan Ibrahimovic while former Toffee Romelu Lukaku is almost certainly sidelined, leaving Mourinho short of attacking options. If the odds-on shots are to be successful it could be in a low-scoring encounter and backing under 2.5 goals is preferred.

Mourinho has never put style over substance and any win will do after Saturday's goalless stalemate with Southampton followed hot on the heels of disappointing draws with Leicester and Burnley and their League Cup exit at Bristol City.

The onus will be on Marcus Rashford or Anthony Martial to find a path to goal, assuming Lukaku's head injury suffered against Saints is enough to keep him out of a Goodison return which is an issue as Mourinho has clearly preferred a more physical presence to lead the line.

It should give Everton confidence that they can be competitive, just as they were in their other big matches under Sam Allardyce which ended in draws against Liverpool (1-1) and Chelsea (0-0).

Everton offered almost nothing in attack in those fixtures, instead concentrating everything on looking to frustrate more talented opponents and Allardyce did that part of the game well.

Big Sam is unlikely to move far away from that successful gameplan which sees the back four sitting deep to protect goalkeeper Jordan Pickford with midfield shields Morgan Schneiderlin and Idrissa Gueye in front of them. 

United lacked guile against Southampton and patience will be needed to find a way through a defensive line which already looks a world apart from what Allardyce inherited at Goodison Park.

However, the Toffees still have a Lukaku-sized hole in their attack even though United's record goalscorer Wayne Rooney has performed surprisingly well since his return to Everton with ten Premier League goals.

They had two attempts on target at Anfield – and one of those was the soft penalty scored by Rooney – while Everton managed zero shots on target at home to Chelsea.

Saturday's 2-1 loss to Bournemouth, their first since Allardyce was named manager, was another disappointing effort in terms of attacking intent as they had only one shot on target at Dean Court.

That suggests Everton may lack the tools to take advantage of a United side short on confidence.

Under 2.5 goals

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Match in Focus

19:45 Fr 23Mar ITV

Holland v England

Home Win Draw Away Win
Key stats
  • England have kept four clean sheets in a row and five in their last six
Expert verdict
This is Ronald Koeman’s first game in charge of the Oranje and, as well as saying farewell to the likes of Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder and ignoring the claims of Daley Blind and Robin van Persie, he’s brought in five new faces. England have been defensively very good in recent internationals, with clean sheets against world champions Germany and Brazil, and are un likely to be beaten.