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EVERTON FC can use their Wembley pain as extra motivation to record a first win at Old Trafford in 20 years, according to Joleon Lescott.
The ex-Blues defender has been texting encouragement to his former team-mates this week, in the hope they can help Manchester City remain in the title race by causing an upset against Alex Ferguson’s side on Sunday.
Lescott, 29, who swapped Goodison for the Etihad stadium in a £24m move in summer 2009, is praying the Toffees at least hold the current champions to a draw, because a home win would mean United could clinch the Premier League crown by beating City on April 30.
Roberto Mancini’s men trail their city rivals by five points with four games to go, and know from experience how tough David Moyes’ side can be.
Since the Abu Dhabi takeover, they have lost six of the last eight games against the Blues, who were also the last visiting team to win a league fixture at the Etihad Stadium back in December 2010 – and Lescott agrees that if he could hand-pick the opposition for United on Sunday, it would be Everton FC.
“They had a big disappointment at the weekend against Liverpool, but I’ll be sending them a few more texts going in to Sunday!” he said.
“We are aware of the situation.
“Everton are never an easy team to play against, especially for us, and hopefully not for United on Sunday.
“But if we don’t take care of our own games, and maintain our focus, it won’t matter.
“We play after United, and it would be great going into that game knowing Everton had taken a point off them, but if not we still have to do our job and go into the final three games with the best possible chance.”
Meanwhile, midfielder Ross Barkley could be in line for a place on the bench on Sunday, after he played in the reserves’ 1-0 win over Bolton on Wednesday.
Barkley, 18, impressed during the academy’s recent participation in the Dallas Cup, and Moyes is considering handing him more Premier League playing opportunities before the end of the season.
WANT TO know the secret formula to beat Manchester United at Old Trafford? There isn’t one.
That’s the frank admission of former Toffees goalkeeper Bobby Mimms, as Everton FC bid to taste victory in the Red Devils’ back yard for the first time in 20 years on Sunday.
Mimms would know too. After all, he was in the visiting dug-out the last time a team managed to upset the odds against Alex Ferguson’s men in the Premier League this season.
The 48-year-old is goalkeeping coach at Blackburn Rovers, the club who condemned Ferguson to the ignominy of watching his reigning champions lose to the basement side on his 70th birthday.
A brace from another ex-Toffee Yakubu and a late Grant Hanley winner did the damage on New Year’s Eve, but Mimms admits the task could be even harder for David Moyes’ men on Sunday, with their opponents hot on the heels of another title.
“I honestly don’t think there’s any big secret to going there and getting a win,” says the former Everton, Blackburn and Spurs stopper. “It’s just a case of every single player in your team doing their job near perfectly, working extra hard, and when chances present themselves the crucial bit is you’ve got to take them.
“That’s what we did on the day. Mark Bunn made a couple of saves for us, and at the other end and benefit from having an on-form Yak.
“Obviosuly it won’t be easy on Sunday because United smell the title, and they’re closing in on it in that way they do.”
Mimms has spent his career trying to thwart forwards, but he is full of admiration for the former Goodison number 22, and the current Everton number seven, Nikica Jelavic.
“It’s a cliche but Yak is the classic natural goalscorer,” he says. “You could tell that as soon as he came in the summer.
“He’s only been with us six months but he’s scored 18 goals. He can score a variety of finishes and when you’re struggling sometimes having a goalscorer can be the big difference.
“His goals have kept us going. Yes we’re still down there, but we’ve got a fighting chance because of Yak.
“Goalscorers are like that, and it looks like Everton have got a real one in Jelavic. He’s a player!
“Everyone goes on about his movement, and obviously from a keeper’s perspective we look at that. His is top class. The more he settles in at Goodison the more competitive he’ll make the team. Those players are always the difference, whether you’re fighting to stay up or pushing for European football.”
Mimms’ spell on Merseyside between 1985 and 1988 coincided with an era when Everton were regularly contenders for the top honours, and it was with sadness he noted their failure to move closer to another long-awaited trophy last Saturday.
“We had a game so I only watched the highlights,” he says. “But when I heard Jelavic had scored and it was 1-0 I was pleased. For me the likelihood was that Everton would go on to win from there.
“I was surprised and disappointed when I heard the final score filter through. The Blues in the city must be devastated because we have been there and played against Liverpool a good few times over the years and never beat them when it counted. It’s uncanny.
“Liverpool just have a knack of rising that bit more to the game and grinding it out.
“It’s like 1986 when I played. Gary Lineker scored first and we felt we were on top. We were thinking it was going to be our day but they nicked it.It hurt.”
Despite the heartache of this latest FA Cup semi-final defeat, Mimms does not believe Moyes faces too hard a task in lifting his players ahead of Sunday.
“He seems like a great motivator as a coach, and in a way the occasion of a clash between teams from these two great football cities should provide the motivation.
“The atmosphere will be lively, and that’s better than a flat game against a team with nothing to play for.
“I know Everton fans will be sore, of course they will and rightly so, but they shouldn't forget how well they’ve come on.
“Hopefully next season they can get going early and be up there competing for trophies. Hopefully Blackburn are still there too. It’s been a tough season, but I still love coming into work every day.”
LEIGHTON BAINES could miss the rest of the season with the hamstring tear he suffered at Wembley last week.
The Everton left-back had hoped the injury, which forced him to limp out of the closing minutes of the 2-1 FA Cup semi-final defeat to Liverpool, was not serious.
But scans have revealed a grade two tear, meaning he is not only out of the trip to Manchester United on Sunday but is struggling to play again this term.
And that has also left him sweating over his place in England’s squad for the Euros.
Everton have refused to rule him out for the rest of the campaign — yet.
But the normal recovery period of four weeks would leave the 27-year-old battling to make the Toffees’ last-day showdown with Newcastle.
Baines had played 99 consecutive league games before being rested against Sunderland on Easter Monday.
Former United player Phil Neville is likely to switch flanks for the Old Trafford game.
Leighton Baines has been ruled out of Sunday’s trip to Manchester United amid suggestions he could be absent for the rest of the season
Everton left back Leighton Baines expects to return from a hamstring tear before the end of the season