Manchester United v Everton: Keep things simple and take on the hosts

Manchester United host Everton in the first of the weekend's Premier league encounters and Steve Rawlings suspects it could be a bit of a slog for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's charges...

Stuttering United yet to fire on all cylinders

Following the high-profile summer signings of Raphael Varane, Jadon Sancho and of course, Cristiano Ronaldo, and a 5-1 demolition of Leeds United on the opening weekend of the season, confidence was sky high amongst the Old Trafford faithful and punters alike.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Manchester United were backed all the way in to 6.8 to be crowned Premier League champions for the first time in nine years come May but confidence has slipped of late.

The fervour that followed Ronaldo's return (a 4-1 home win against Newcastle) has subsided and although they sit inside the top-four places in the Premier League, that single result is arguably United's only convincing performance since they put Leeds to the sword in August.

A last gasp 95th minute winner by Ronaldo against Villarreal on Wednesday night in the Champions League came as a welcome boost to Solskjaer, who had been matched at a low of 5.0 in the Next Premier League Manager to Leave market, but it was more than the Red Devils deserved on the balance of play and had it not been for another brilliant display by their keeper, David de Gea, they may well have experienced their fourth defeat in five.

Following a disappointing 2-1 defeat to Young Boys in the Champions League, an 89th minute goal by Jesse Lingard secured all three points away at West Ham (2-1) but the Hammers got their own back in the League Cup just three days later, beating United 1-0 away, and an 88th minute Kortney Hause header saw Aston Villa leave Old Trafford with all three points last weekend.

It's difficult to gauge just where United are at present and it's by no means certain that they can build on Ronaldo's late strike on Wednesday night.

Toffees ticking along nicely

The appointment of ex-Liverpool boss, Rafa Benitez, didn't go down especially well with the Everton fans but after a decent start to the season, the Goodison Park faithful are starting to warm to the new gaffer.

The Toffees went out of the League Cup on penalties away at QPR and their second half performance at Aston Villa is one to forget (conceded three goals in nine second half minutes to lose 3-0) but they've made a bright start to the campaign and goal difference is the only thing that separates them and Saturday's opponents.

benitez applauding Everton.jpg

Everton have had a soft start to the season on paper and a maximum nine-point haul from their first three home games, against Southampton, Burnley, and Norwich, is nothing more than expected but given how brightly Brighton have started their campaign, the Toffees' 2-0 win at the Amex is an eye-catching result and a point away at Leeds (2-2) is always a decent outcome too.

Injuries to key forwards, Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin are a potential hinderance but new signings, Andros Townsend and Demarai Gray have hit the ground running. Townsend has been involved in seven goals in eight games in all competitions this season (4 goals, 3 assists) and Gray has three goals and one assist in seven matches.

History points to a home win but can United be trusted?

The omens look good for the home side if history is anything to go by.

Manchester United have lost just one of their last 12 Premier League meetings with Everton and the Toffees have won just one of their last 28 matches at Old Trafford (L20 D7). And Rafa doesn't have a fabulous record there either. The Everton manager has lost seven of his nine Premier League away games against the Red Devils.

Those stats don't make good reading for Everton fans but the fact that United have conceded at least once in each of their last eight Premier League home games and that each of their last eight Premier League defeats have been at Old Trafford, provide plenty of encouragement.

With United's influential captain, Harry Maguire, still injured, Everton finding the net at some stage has to be considered highly likely so it's no surprise to see Over in the Over/Under 2.5 Goals market trading at odds-on and I'd rather play Yes at evens than No at odds-on in the Both Teams to Score market.

Both look worthy wagers and although he's been very quiet in each of his last couple of appearances, given he's playing in his 200th Premier League game, and that he may be invigorated after his late strike on Wednesday, backing Ronaldo to score might pay dividends, but I'm happy to keep things simple and take on the hosts.

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