By Mark James
Without a doubt, Sundays game at Old Trafford represents a real test for Ferguson’s men and, more importantly, poses a physical challenge for the midfield. Following the season opener, United fans flooded forums and comment boards with suggestions that we lack the creativity, strength and drive required to host a successful title push. Six months later and that opinion may have somewhat altered regarding our chances of lifting silverware come May, though the sentiment regarding our midfield failings have not.
Despite a season in which Michael Carrick has arguably been the most consistent midfield performer in English football, Anderson has re-emerged as a player of immense vision and dynamic motion and Cleverley has continued to develop into an attacking force. There can be no doubt that games featuring the likes of Tiote, Toure and Everton’s Belgium midfielder are a genuine cause for concern when it comes to the prospect of taking home all three points.
A towering target man, Marouane Fellaini brought down every high ball, out-muscled every competitor and drove through the heart of our central pairing with consummate ease when United last met Everton. Sadly, one could argue that little can be done to prevent the afro aficionado from doing the same again on Sunday afternoon. With that said, what lessons can be taken to ensure that Everton leave Manchester as the perfect appetiser for a midweek scorcher in Madrid?
- Move the ball – Regardless of how well Fellaini performed in the previous meeting between the two sides, United were poor in most areas and, most notably, gave the ball away with unnerving regularity. With Michael Carrick now enjoying his best spell since arriving from Spurs in 2006, it is vital that a composed approach to ball movement is utilised throughout the match. Simply put, with the right approach play, Fellaini can be played out of the game.
- Keep it low – Everton managed to rattle United to such a degree earlier this season, that they were drawn into playing a messy game where the high ball dominated play. Every time it came into midfield, a scrap would ensue, with Fellaini winning the battle 9 times out of 10. A direct, low ball approach is the ideal way to take the big man’s strength and power out of the equation.
- Anderson – Underrated as one of the most combative and frustrating players for opponents to go toe-to-toe with, Anderson has a habit of out powering and out manoeuvring even the toughest of opponents. HIs presence on the Old Trafford turf this Sunday is sure to provide Felleini with a more aggressive test than the likes of Carrick, Scholes and Cleverley.
- Use the Wings – While Nani has remained my least favourite player to don the famous red shirt this season and Valencia continues to experience a surprising dip in form and distinct failure of confidence, Manchester United’s wide play may not be what it should. With that said, the width of the Old Trafford pitch must be utilised in order to limit Fellaini’s impact on Sunday’s game.
- Goals galore – Though our defensive return to form seems to have been accompanied by a dip in attacking prowess, Van Persie and a revitalised Wayne Rooney are certain to pose the main threat to Everton at Old Trafford this weekend. When it comes to putting the ball in Tim Howard’s net, there may be little Fellaini will be able to do to prevent United from notching up another home win.
So, whether wishful thinking or tactical endeavour, every United fan will be hoping Marouane Fellaini doesn’t make the back pages for a second time this season following an outing against the Red Devils. If kept quiet, Manchester Untied can look forward to taking another huge step forward in regaining the Premier League trophy. Or, perhaps we can keep our fingers crossed that any potential ‘injury’ to Everton’s star man is more than mere back page filler.
About the Author: Mark James attended his first Manchester United game in the mid 80s. He has been a regular visitor to Old Trafford for more than two decades and has developed a passion for sports writing since leaving University with an Honours Degree in Media Studies. As a dedicated writer, Mark has been published in UN sponsored business magazines on behalf of International Tourist Boards, dramatically boosted the online present of e-commerce companies around the world and continues to share his love of Manchester United with blogging communities across the internet. Available via a number of freelancer hire sites, Mark can be contacted through his leading online profile available here..