Going in to the Manchester-Everton match in their Monday night Premier League match, Michael Cox is interested in what United will do with its glut of attacking players...
Rarely have Manchester United made such a landmark signing as Robin van Persie, yet rarely have there been so many question marks about how Sir Alex Ferguson will incorporate a new signing.
With Shinji Kagawa also arriving and stating his intention to play behind the man striker, in the role played by Wayne Rooney last season, the main tactical interest from this match will be the positioning of Manchester United's attackers.
Van Persie starting United's opening game would be something of a surprise considering he's only had a couple of days training with his new teammates. Ferguson might take the opportunity to save Wayne Rooney for future matches, however, on the ground at which he generally receives a hostile reception since his departure eight years ago. Van Persie and Kagawa would be a fascinating combination.
David Moyes has recruited some new attacking players this summer, with Steven Naismith, Steven Pienaar and Kevin Mirallas all arriving to offer genuine attacking threat from the wings, something Everton have often lacked in recent seasons. Mirallas will not play in this game, however, and I expect Moyes to be relatively cautious, playing with two deep banks of four, and probably allowing United to dominate possession.
Mirallas' sheer speed will give them another dimension, but for now Nikica Jelavic is clearly their main goal threat. He specialises in making clever runs towards the near post to meet crosses and cut-backs, something United's centre-backs must be wary of - with injury problems at the back, rumours suggest Michael Carrick might be deployed in that role. He's filled in at centre-back before, but he was responsible for the goal England conceded against Italy in midweek, when Daniele De Rossi steamed in at the near post ahead of him at a corner. If Carrick starts, Jelavic will look to get across the front of him.
United's injury crisis - plus Rafael's participation at the Olympics - also means Antonio Valencia looks set to start at right-back. Again, this is a role he's played before, but he's not always looked comfortable in that position. United's sheer number of attacking players might mean he's used more at right-back this season and becomes more established in that role, but for now Everton should look to attack him as often as possible. Pienaar's relationship with left-back Leighton Baines is excellent, and I think Valencia will be in danger of a booking if he plays right-back. Back him to be shown a card at around (4.0).
Everton have their own injury problems, with both Marouane Fellaini and Darron Gibson doubtful. These might be exaggerated stories, however - Newcastle seemed to do something similar ahead of their game against Tottenham - but the absence of those two players would only further United's chances of dominating possession.
The corners market is difficult to predict without knowing the identities of the wide players, so I'll steer clear of that market. Instead, I quite fancy over 2.5 goals here. There have been a couple of crazy matches between these two in the past couple of seasons - a 3-3 and a 4-4 - and there were some big scorelines on the opening weekend of the Premier League season, as if defensive organisation was still lacking after a long summer break.
Everton generally start the season slowly and United have those defensive concerns, so trading @ Betfair odds of (2.06), I fancy three goals or more.
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