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Rampant Red Devils Meet Tedious Toffees

Manchester United are in red-hot form as they welcome a wounded Everton outfit to Old Trafford on Friday evening.

The Red Devils take on the Toffees in the Third Round of the FA Cup and recent form suggests there's only one likely outcome in this particular encounter under the lights at the Theatre of Dreams.

Erik ten Hag's men claimed their sixth straight win last time out against Bournemouth and they are level on 35 points with third-placed Newcastle Utd, with a game in hand over the Magpies.

Man United are seven unbeaten at Old Trafford, for the first time since 2017, and they have kept four clean sheets in succession for only the third time since 2018.

United have seven points more than at this stage of the 2021/22 league campaign and they have already equalled their tally of eight clean sheets from last term.

On the other hand, Everton were on the receiving end of a 4-1 thumping at home to Brighton, with Frank Lampard's job hanging by a thread.

The Toffees find themselves in a sticky situation, having taken one win from their last 11 games. Currently sat in 18th place in the Premier League, they are in grave danger of succumbing to relegation.

United and Everton met earlier this season, in the Premier League, as the Red Devils ran out 2-1 winners at Goodison Park. Since that day in October, the blues of Merseyside have collected five points out of a possible 27, while the reds of Manchester picked up 20 points from 27 on offer.

The teams have previously met 12 times in the FA Cup with six victories apiece. Their most recent encounter in this competition was in 2016 when Antony Martial scored a last-gasp winner to send United through to the final at Wembley.

Ten Hag is likely to ring some changes for this tie and it should come as no surprise if the likes of Lisandro Martínez, Raphaël Varane and Diogo Dalot are named in the XI.

Dalot made a substitute appearance versus Bournemouth for his first taste of action post-World Cup. Martínez had a brief cameo in the final minutes for what was his first outing for United since becoming a world champion with Argentina. Varane, meanwhile, was prominent in the previous victories over Nottingham Forest and Wolves.

Should the trio be recalled to the starting line-up at the expense of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelöf, it would be the first time this back four (with Luke Shaw) starts a game since October.

(Getty Images)

Antony may also return after missing the last match through injury. The Brazil winger got his United career off to a flying start, with a goal in each of his first three Premier League games (including one against Everton) though since then he has not quite matched the expectations that come with a transfer fee as hefty as his.

Jadon Sancho, a prospective challenger for Antony's position, recently returned to training at Carrington after undergoing a personal fitness regime. When asked about Sancho, Ten Hag did not give a time frame for when he may return to action though it is clear to see the manager is still eager to get the best out of the 22-year-old winger.

Alejandro Garnacho, another young forward, has grasped his opportunities and he is emerging as a regular under Ten Hag. Following a rocky start to life under the Dutch coach, Garnacho has seemingly come to grips with the stringent nature of Ten Hag and the teenager has produced a handful of promising performances when called upon.

On Friday morning, United confirmed the loan signing of Jack Butland from Crystal Palace. The goalkeeper joins on a short-term deal and he is set to play second fiddle to David de Gea after Newcastle recalled Martin Dúbravka earlier this month.

Butland has played 87 times in the Premier League and he has earned nine caps for England. Upon joining United, the 29-year-old said: “This is an amazing club and one that I am now proud to represent.

“There is a lot that this group can achieve this season and I’m excited to play my part in helping everyone to reach these ambitions.”

One week into the January transfer window, United have yet to formally make a move for a striker following the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo in November. The two parties mutually agreed to part ways and United retained approximately £15 million worth of wages which Ronaldo ceded.

Ronaldo's ultimate aim was to force an exit from Old Trafford and, with his 38th birthday on the horizon, the Portugal international has signed a mega-money contract with Al-Nassr in Saudi Arabia.

With an almost minimal budget, United's recruitment team are eyeing low-cost options in attack for the remainder of the current season and the pool of talent is a limited one. Joao Félix, Memphis Depay and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting have been touted as options, as per reports, though United have yet to reach a firm decision on their next attacking addition.

Félix, 23, is said to be keen on a switch to the Premier League, though Atlético Madrid are reportedly seeking a €21million package covering the loan fee and the player's wages. It is understood both United and Arsenal are reluctant to yield to Atlético's demands and the fee may come down as the window progresses.

Depay, meanwhile, is into the final six months of his contract at Barcelona meaning United could land the Netherlands international for a cut-price deal. He previously signed for United, aged 20, under Louis van Gaal.

Almost a decade later, needless to say the 28-year-old is a far more seasoned player and he boasts heaps more of experience and exposure. Depay has scored 43 goals in 86 matches for the Netherlands; only Robin van Persie has scored more for Die Oranje, with 50 goals in 102 games.

Memphis Depay with United in 2016. (Photo: AMA via Getty Images)

Memphis moved to Lyon in January 2017 after struggling to emerge as a regular at United under José Mourinho. His revival in France earned him a move to Barca, who the Dutch forward joined on a free transfer in 2021.

United take on Barcelona in the UEFA Europa League next month, with the first leg at Camp Nou on February 16 before the return fixture seven days later at Old Trafford. Between now and their trip to Catalonia, United could have as many as nine matches across their three domestic competitions.

Victory over Everton would see the Red Devils through to the Fourth Round of the FA Cup, due to take place over the final weekend in January (27th-29th). They are also due to come up against Charlton Atheltic in the EFL Cup quarter-finals on Tuesday, with the two-legged semis scheduled for the weeks commencing January 23/30.

United also have to contend with Arsenal and Man City in the league, with said teams currently occupying the top two spots in the English top flight. Ten Hag and his men host Pep Guardiola's reigning champions before a clash in the capital with the league-leading Gunners.

Man United Upcoming Fixtures:

6 Jan - Everton (H) - FA Cup 10 Jan - Charlton (H) - EFL Cup 14 Jan - Man City (H) - Premier League

22 Jan - Arsenal (A) - Premier League

24/25 Jan - EFL Cup semi-final 1st leg*

28/29 Jan - FA Cup Fourth Round*

31 Jan/1 Feb - EFL Cup semi-final 2nd leg*

*Fixtures TBD

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