Stapleton Predicting Tight Contest
Everton will cause problems on Sunday, says former Man United man.
Frank Stapleton says that Everton’s sensational comeback at Old Trafford last season still rankles with Manchester United fans.
The 4-4 draw back in April is considered by many as a result that cost the Red Devils their 13th Premier League title, a crown they relinquished on goal difference to neighbours Manchester City.
Everton were trailing by two goals with 25 minutes remaining but Marouane Fellaini and Steven Pienaar struck late on to grab a share of the spoils.
The Toffees also got the better of Sir Alex Ferguson’s side when they visited Goodison Park on the opening weekend of this season.
Stapleton, who scored 78 goals for Manchester United in the mid-1980s, believes those two results will guarantee that Everton are approached with caution by the Premier League pacesetters when the teams meet in Sunday's clash.
“I think that Everton are really pushing now for a top-four position and they have to be taken realistically,” said the 56-year-old, who was working as a radio pundit at Everton’s match with Aston Villa on Saturday afternoon.
“Just looking at the game itself, memories come up of last year and the 4-4 draw at Old Trafford. Many supporters look at it and still say that it cost them the league.
“This year I think that Everton have been a different team altogether again. They have moved up a notch and there is no doubt in my mind that United as a club feel that this is one of their toughest games of the season.
“There is a lot of respect from what happened last year and also the way that Everton have gone about their business this season. You can see they are one of the best six teams in the country.
“There will be two very strong teams playing against each other and I’m sure Everton won’t go there feeling as though they are underdogs. Based on what we saw last year, everyone is looking forward to it.”
Stapleton, a three-time FA Cup winner, is tipping Everton to qualify for the Champions League this season and only sees two teams in England with better credentials than David Moyes’ current crop.
He added: “Both teams need the points for different reasons. United are striving to win the league this year and Everton are looking for that Champions League spot.
“What has helped Everton this season is that they had a good start. They tend to come more into form after the new year but this time they have been consistent all the way through.
“I think that if they keep going in the same vein they are going to get that Champions League position. When you look at it, I would say that there are only two teams better than them and they are the two Manchester clubs.
“I think they have got the edge this year because they have shown more consistency in their results and also with the way they play. If they have a problem with the conditions, they can always change their style.
“It’s been a good season so far for Everton and I think it will continue.”
Stapleton also cast his mind back to his playing days and, in particular, contests against Everton.
The former Republic of Ireland international could only ever recall hard-fought encounters against the Blues, none more so than in the 1985 FA Cup final when a Norman Whiteside goal in extra-time prevented Howard Kendall’s team from retaining the trophy.
“In my time, we had loads of battles, in league and cup matches - they were always tough games,” Stapleton added.
“I played a lot against Kevin Ratcliffe down the years as our careers were around the same time. I always had good tussles against Derek Mountfield and Dave Watson too.
“When you play against Everton, you know you are going to be in a game. I can’t ever remember having an easy match against them.”