Inconsistency has been at the heart of Manchester United's lacklustre season thus far and with a spirited win at the Emirates, despite sporting a depleted squad through injury, one had reason to believe the champions stood to beat Liverpool at Anfield on Saturday.
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United had dominated possession for long periods, but lacking the potency of Rooney and with a reliance on the enthusiasm of young gun Welbeck, United failed to create an abundance of clear cut chances. Liverpool were outplayed and chasing the ball for the majority of the game but when it mattered that man Dirk Kuyt once again pounced to pour more misery on United's campaign.
Tonight, The Red Devils will still have one eye on Merseyside, in hope that Everton can salvage something against a Manchester City side that have only been victorious on three of their last eight outings in all competitions.
All three victories have been in the league however and David Moyes' men have only mustered as many wins at Goodison all season. Everton go into the game having failed to score more than once in their last ten premier league games and without a backbone of senior professionals including Jagielka, Distin, Rodwell and Osman.
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The Citizens have netted as many times this season as they did in their whole campaign last year and will welcome back skipper Vincent Kompany from suspension.
Old Trafford will welcome back Rio Ferdinand to a United team that boasts only two victories from their last four premier league fixtures. Although, it may be more of a concern that they are likely to continue without Wayne Rooney, who Ferguson will not rush back from an ankle injury sustained against Arsenal.
It is the first time in premier league history that United have been eliminated from both Champions League and FA Cup competitions at this stage in the season. Retaining the Premier League title is the name of the game for the champions now and they start the race to the finish line against a notoriously physical Stoke City side that will be playing to win.
Stoke still remain in two cup competitions, although only one victory in the last six league matches suggests the players are feeling the strains of such demands. To boot, Stoke's last win at Old Trafford was nearly thirty-six years ago so the Stretford End will be expecting nothing less than the full three points.
City face the next six premier league fixtures against teams from the lower half of the table so will be aiming for three points tonight to set them on their way to opening up the gap even further between themselves and United.
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However, with relations still strained between City and Everton since the Lescott affair, United hope a hostile Goodison crowd will rile up The Toffees enough to take the game to their opponents, providing the fearless approach that has upset the league leaders on more than one occasion recently.
The current champions will know it is how they perform that really counts, rather than relying on others and will be keen to go on a winning streak of their own. They will welcome any slip ups from their Noisy Neighbours but know from experience that they must begin to perform more consistently in this second half of the season to ensure their only hopes of domestic silverware remain alive.
Written by Dom Wallace
Written by Dom Wallace