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Manchester United are looking to win the FA Cup for the 13th time in their history
Everton are five-time FA Cup winners but no doubt have other priorities this season
Manchester United can extend winning run in this cup clash at Old Trafford on Friday
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Everton are in poor form and could name a weakened side, while United will be keen to extend their winning run.
Back Manchester United to be winning at half-time and full-time of this FA Cup third-round tie. (+275)
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Ahead of this weekend, the FA Cup is probably at the bottom of Manchester United’s priorities for the 2022/23 campaign. This historic tournament is more prestigious than the EFL Cup, but the Red Devils are already through to the quarter-finals of the latter competition and have a winnable tie against third-tier outfit Charlton Athletic on the horizon.
Their principal goal for the season will be to finish in the top four of the Premier League, while the Europa League offers both the chance to win a trophy and an alternative route into the group stage of next season’s Champions League. In many ways, then, a negative result in the FA Cup would not be as damaging as it would be in other competitions.
At the same time, United will be keen to emerge victorious when they open the third round on Friday. Momentum is a precious - if not fully understood - commodity in soccer. Right now, United have it in abundance. Erik ten Hag will not want to squander it by falling to defeat by their Premier League rivals here.
The Red Devils have won each of their last six matches in all competitions, a run that stretches back to before World Cup 2022. They have triumphed in each of their three Premier League clashes since the tournament in Qatar, beating Nottingham Forest, Wolverhampton Wanderers, and Bournemouth without conceding a goal.
True, each of those opponents are battling relegation this season. Tougher tests undoubtedly lie ahead, not least in upcoming games against Manchester City and Arsenal later in January. Negative outcomes in those matches would quickly see the optimism at Old Trafford evaporate.
For now, though, a sense of goodwill has returned, boosted further by the news that the Glazers are willing to sell the club. Things are starting to look up again for United.
The mood at Everton is vastly different. At the time of writing Frank Lampard’s side are just one point above the bottom three in the Premier League. By the time this match kicks off, they might even be in the relegation zone - all four of the teams below them in the standings are in action on Wednesday.
Having secured their Premier League status in the final few weeks of last term, the hope was that Everton would be able to steer clear of the drop zone this time around. But amid financial difficulties, the Toffees find themselves in a similar position to the one they were in 12 months ago.
As a result, Lampard is starting to feel the heat. Everton have not won any of their last six games in the top flight. They produced a battling performance to draw 1-1 with Manchester City at the weekend, but the goodwill generated from that display was immediately lost after a 4-1 thrashing by Brighton & Hove Albion at Goodison Park on Tuesday.
Lampard is in a bit of a pickle. Even a full-strength Everton team would be underdogs for a game at Old Trafford, so the manager may be tempted to rest several of his regular starters with an eye on upcoming Premier League meetings with the likes of Southampton and West Ham United.
However, a heavy defeat would only increase the pressure on Lampard, whose decision to name a weakened team for the EFL third-round tie with Bournemouth did not go down well with the club’s fans after a 4-1 loss.
Everton are very low on confidence right now. They would have much preferred an FA Cup third-round tie against a team from the lower divisions. That would have handed the Toffees an opportunity to register a morale-boosting victory. A trip to in-form Manchester United would have been right near the top of their list of least desired match-ups.
In three of their last four Premier League matches, United have scored in the opening 45 minutes and held the lead at both half-time and full-time. Ten Hag’s team are increasingly making quick starts to matches, which stands in stark contrast to the sluggish way in which they began games early in the campaign.
As for Everton, they have conceded in the first half of each of their last five encounters in the top flight, a worrying trend that could continue on Friday. Giving opponents a head-start is never advisable, especially as Lampard’s side have struggled in attack all season long.
With United bang in form and Everton struggling at both ends of the pitch (as evidenced by that 4-1 thumping by Brighton), we recommend backing the home team to be ahead at both half-time and full-time in this one.
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Teams: Manchester United vs Everton
Location: Old Trafford, Manchester, England
Date and Time: Friday, 6 January 2023, 03.00 PM EST
How to Watch: ESPN
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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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