Everton v Manchester United

Evening liveblog fans.

Give it a few more weeks and we’ll be able to fully embrace football, hold it closely to our sporting bosom and whisper it sweet nothings until it falls asleep in our arms to the strains of He Scores When He Wants (lullaby remix).

For the time being there’s a five-ringed caveat still hanging over the sport.

Despite an opening weekend which did its darndest to convince us that everything was fine, that football was still our favourite, that it had changed, there’s still a sense of this season being slightly premature, perhaps even slightly unwanted.

Enter Manchester United. On a one-team mission to jump-start the sport by signing last year’s best player, and pairing him with 2004’s most exciting man Wayne Rooney.

There’s some reasonable attacking talent pulling the strings (No Ryan, we know you stopped listening at “talent pulling”, this is about football) behind them as well.

Shinji Kagawa will be annointed later as either the new new Paul Scholes or an utter failure. Nani and Antonio Valencia love to run fast. Ryan Giggs begins his 409th consecutive Premier League season.

Everton, meanwhile, have done the unthinkable this summer and signed some players.

Steven Naismith has crawled from the Rangers wreckage to re-unite with Nikica Jelavic up front. Steven Pienaar is back, Back, BACK! Kevin Mirallas has also joined, after an administrative error which erroneously suggested he was also named Steven.

Plenty to be getting on with, then. If only the cricket hadn’t had been so good.

Team news and lots more to follow, stay tuned.

Here’s a lovely preview:

Monday, August 20, 2012

Everton v Manchester United
Goodison Park
Kick-off: 20.00 BST.
TV: Live Sky 1.

Everton (Possible, 4-4-1-1): Howard; Hibbert, Jagielka, Distin, Baines; Naismith, Fellaini, Gibson, Pienaar; Osman; Jelavic.
Out: None.

Manchester United (Possible, 4-4-1-1): De Gea; Rafael, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra; Valencia, Carrick, Scholes, Kagawa; Rooney; Van Persie.
Out: Fletcher (colitis), Jones (back), Smalling (toe), Evans (ankle).

Referee: Andre Marriner. Matches (last season): 21, Red 5, Yellow 73.

Team News
Summer signing Steven Naismith is in line for his competitive debut against Manchester United on Monday. The former Rangers player is one of two arrivals at Goodison Park so far, with midfielder Steven Pienaar returning from Tottenham. Marouane Fellaini (groin) and fellow midfielder Darron Gibson (thigh) have both recovered from injury.

Match Notes
From the second Sergio Agüero turned United’s title celebrations to dust last May, Sir Alex Ferguson has craved this moment. One suspects it’s been the longest three months of his career, plotting a course to reclaim the Premier League. Robin van Persie’s signing was a show of intent. Everton have enjoyed an encouraging summer but this is an opening fixture neither wanted. As a pointer for the next eight months, expect little. As an exhilarating starter, this is unmissable.

Betting: Home 13-5, Away 5-6, Draw 12-5.

Stat of the game: Wayne Rooney has scored five times in the last seven opening season games for United.

Chris Bascombe’s prediction: Everton 2 Manchester United 2.


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