Premier League - The Big Interview with Paul HeckingbottomSep 21
Manchester United host Everton on Saturday lunchtime in a crucial clash at the top and bottom of the Premier League.
The visitors are still embroiled in a relegation battle despite a slight upturn in form since the appointment of Sean Dyche, while United are looking to build on their midweek win over Brentford and remain in the top four.
Here are three reasons to watch the crucial encounter, live on BT Sport 1 and BT Sport Ultimate from 11.30am on Saturday.
Points a necessity for different reasons
Both Everton and United are desperate for points, the former to avoid a financially cataclysmic relegation to the Championship and the latter to ensure Champions League qualification.
Interestingly, both teams are also level on points with the sides below them and above them respectively: United are alongside Newcastle on 53 points but behind on goal difference and just three points clear of fifth-placed Tottenham; Everton are on 27 points with three other teams and only outside the relegation zone on goal difference.
If United can win on Saturday, they will move a step closer to a top four finish. Anything other than three points, though, will allow Spurs to potentially cut the gap (though Erik ten Hag’s side do have a game in hand).
Everton have picked up most of their points at home this season and will have been encouraged by their 1-1 draw with Tottenham last time out, a result that came courtesy of Michael Keane’s injury-time screamer.
United’s away form, meanwhile, remains a real concern: they have lost heavily on the road to the division’s best teams and were well beaten by Newcastle last weekend. Shipping 29 goals in 14 away games is a major problem for any side with aspirations of competing at the top.
The stakes are high, then, and neither side can afford too many more slip ups if they want to reach their objectives by the end of the season.
Rashford racing towards 30 goals for the season
One of the biggest positives of the season for United has been Marcus Rashford’s exceptional form.
The 25-year-old had performed well in bursts in previous seasons but consistency proved elusive. This term, though, things have been very different.
It has been by far and away Rashford’s best ever goal scoring campaign, with 28 goals in all competitions and plenty of games still to play. His previous best was 22 in the 2019-20 season.
Clearly, Rashford has benefitted from Cristiano Ronaldo’s exit, becoming the main man at United. His general play, his confidence, his demeanour have all gone up a level.
There is a maturity about the England international now, too. He appears focused and determined, unconcerned by criticism.
Rashford is approaching the best years of his career and, on current form, is without doubt one of the most exciting players to watch in the Premier League.
Eriksen set for return to action
There’s no doubt that United have missed Christian Eriksen and Casemiro in recent Premier League games. The latter is still suspended but Eriksen is, according to Ten Hag, on the verge of a return after over two months out with ankle ligament damage.
That would be a major boost, even if the 31-year-old is only fit enough for the bench.
United have lacked the control Eriksen provides in central areas of late and his calming presence will be hugely beneficial for the run-in.
"He's returning on the pitch. He's returning to team training today, so we have to see now how quickly he can make progress,” Ten Hag said on Tuesday.
The Dutchman will be hesitant to take any risks with Eriksen, but having him available again will certainly be a boost.