Football

RONALD KOEMAN SEEKING A UNIQUE OLD TRAFFORD TREBLE

The Dutch is on the brink of becoming the first visiting manager to win thrice on the bounce at the Theatre of Dreams.

There seems to be no silver lining to Everton's Merseyside Derby woes as they succumbed to a 3-1 defeat at Anfield on Saturday. The loss meant the Toffees are still awaiting their first derby win in the enemy territory in the 21st century. The defeat all but ended their slim hopes of a top 4 finish but clinching a top 6 finish is still within the realms of possibility. Everton once again faces a side belonging to that bracket as they travel down the M62 to play Manchester United. And looking at their managers' own remarkable record at the Theatre of Dreams, the Goodison park outfit has every right to feel confident about their chances going into a game where they can't afford to drop more points themselves like the Red Devils on Tuesday.

 

 

Ronald Koeman is now in his third season in English football and both his previous trips to Old Trafford with former team Southampton saw his side emerge victorious while conceding a nought. Coincidentally, both of those wins came by a solitary goal margin — Dusan Tadic the hero for the Saints in January 2015 and a year later, Charlie Austin celebrated his club debut with a headed winner three minutes from time. As a result, the Dutchman became the first Southampton manager since Ted Bates in 1969 to achieve this distinction. The streak was finally brought to a halt earlier in the campaign when a Zlatan Ibrahimovic double inspired the Red Devils to a 2-0 win over the now Claude Puel-managed side, the Ajax and Barcelona legend still has a shot to make history if he leads Everton to a win at Old Trafford and in the process, could become the first-ever manager in the Premier League era to achieve the miraculous feat of winning three consecutive matches at England's largest footballing venue after Wembley. 

 

That's not all, Koeman is undefeated against Mourinho when it comes to facing him on his own turf as well. In his two matches against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, one ended in a 1-1 draw with Dusan Tadic equalising via a spot-kick. The other match which took place last term saw the Saints come from a goal down to win 3-1 as the duo of Graziano Pelle and Sadio Mane starred to condemn Jose Mourinho's men to a fourth league defeat within the first 8 games of that season. These are the kind of stuff not only Ronald Koeman himself but every diehard Evertonian would relish reading ahead of the Tuesday night showdown.

 

 

On the other hand, Manchester United themselves are struggling to assert their home advantage. Jose Mourinho his currently leading his side through their worst-ever home season. Saturday's goalless stalemate with West Brom was their 8th at Old Trafford and 11th overall of the campaign — matched only by relegation-threatened Middlesbrough. United's win-draw-loss record at home now reads 6-8-1 which's the worst among all current top 8 teams in the league. Only once this season have they knitted together a run of two or more wins at Old Trafford which came in December when the Mancunians defeated Tottenham Hotspur, Sunderland and Middlesbrough all in succession. With just four home matches left, the Portuguese is in grave danger of setting an unwanted record of the fewest number of home wins for a campaign, currently held together by the much-maligned David Moyes and his short-term successor Ryan Giggs when they led the club to just 9 home wins during the 2013/14 season.

 

The Red Devils are on a 19-match unbeaten run domestically which's the best streak across the top five European leagues but it has done more harm than good to their chances of finishing in the Champions League spots let alone fighting for league glory thanks to the 9 draws played out during the run. The Red Devils are, infact, the only top 7 side yet to touch the 50 goal mark in the league. However, United have lost just once to the Toffees in last 23 home matches (18-4-1) and have conceded fewer goals despite keeping an identical number of cleansheets. Everton at the moment are still reeling from the shock of losing Seamus Coleman and Ramiro Funes Mori to long-term injuries and there will be no return for Morgan Schneiderlin to his old stomping ground owing to a calf problem leaving the Merseyside club short of experience and quality. Despite this, the Dutch tactician still has the necessary tools at his disposal that are more than capable enough of beating the Red Devils and completely wreck their organisation once they get their way. With Manchester United lagging behind in the race for a top 4 finish and their inability to dispatch opponents and win games on a regular basis allowing frustration to creep into the Red Devils camp, Koeman has a great opportunity to further rub salt into the wounds of their exasperated opponents and make the most of their misery.

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