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Will Everton vs. Man United Go Down to the Wire?

Everton and Manchester United may not have been a “crunch” tie in years gone by, but this season’s clash could have major implications for both sides’ Champions League ambitions. When United was riding high under the guidance of Alex Ferguson, a journey to Goodison Park would have been a taxing yet comfortable one.

On December 4, however, United certainly won’t have things all their own way. In fact, if current form holds true, then this could prove to be a game of very fine margins. With United sitting one point ahead of Everton in sixth, Jose Mourinho will be hoping his side can maintain this advantage on Sunday. Unfortunately, if visitors are to start and finish ahead, they’ll have to do it without Wayne Rooney.

Injuries In and Out

Although he’s been far from a talisman for the club this season, Rooney did look like the player of old in United’s recent 4-1 League Cup quarter-final win. After receiving a bashing from the press and the cold shoulder from England, Rooney played like a man possessed. Asserting a determined physicality that we haven’t seen since his teenage years, Rooney could yet add some firepower to United’s lacklustre streak.

However, if he is going to ignite a fire under his teammates, it won’t be against his former club. A fifth yellow card of the season during the West Ham match means Rooney will have to watch from the sidelines. To compound Mourinho’s attacking dilemma, the Red Devils will also have some defensive frailties. Chris Smalling and Eric Bailly are both out with foot injuries.

On the other side of the pitch, Everton will be a man up thanks to the return of James McCarthy. The midfielder could be just the tonic for what’s proven to be a rollercoaster ride for Everton fans this season. Impressive results against Stoke, Middlesbrough and Manchester City have allowed Everton to collect 19 points from 13 games. But, with thumping losses to Chelsea (5-0) and missed opportunities at Crystal Palace and Southampton (twice), the side have looked decidedly shaky at times.

The Stats Can’t Separate Them

McCarthy could add some much-needed stability in the middle of the park, but that might not be enough to stop the advances of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Juan Mata and Paul Pogba. One thing Everton fans can take solace in ahead of the match is that United haven’t been prolific in front of goal. In fact, when you look at goals for and against, Everton and United are almost identical. United’s 18 scored is only marginally better than Everton’s 16, while both are currently poised on 15 conceded.

If we’re to conclude anything from that, it’s that this will be a tight game. Regardless of previous form and results, there is very little to choose between both teams in the stats department. From games won (five apiece), goals and points, the two opposing teams have posted very similar numbers this season.

Taking this into account, it’s easy to see why bet365 is currently hedging its odds between Everton winning and a draw. With 13/5 on the former and 5/2 on the latter, a £10 bet on either would result in a modest return with a fairly low degree of risk. Naturally, United will start the game as the betting favourites and Sun Bets is offering one of the most enticing prices at 11/10.

War of Attrition or a Bore Draw?

Whichever way you look at it, this game will go down to the wire. Injury worries for United are countered with players returning at Everton, while almost identical Premier League stats make it tough to separate the two sides. If that wasn’t enough, the betting odds don’t appear to offer much in the way of a clear favourite.

To really get some value from this game from a betting perspective (based on what we already know), 0-0 at 9/1 with Sun Bets looks to be a strong option. Both sides have shown they’re fairly solid at the back (15 conceded isn’t awful), yet neither have proved to be deadly in front of goal. This would suggest both teams could cancel each other out which, if this proves to be the case, would make a draw (specifically a goalless one) an intriguing proposition.

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