Manchester United hopes to begin a revival against Everton. The Toffees hope to continue their own. It won't be easy for the Red Devils on Sunday at Old Trafford, just four days after they were knocked out of the Champions League. A victory would keep United in second place in the Premier League behind Chelsea and help erase the memory of Wednesday's 2-1 loss at Benfica. It's the first time in a decade that United failed to reach the knockout stage of the lucrative Champions League.
United will be favored in the rest of its league games this month, against Wigan, Aston Villa, West Bromwhich Albion, Bolton and Birmingham. But first comes Everton, and a loss would put more heat on Ferguson, who will be 64 later this month. There is increasing speculation that he will be out at the end of the season and replaced by Guus Hiddink, Ottmar Hitzfeld or Martin O'Neill. Some of the pressure falls on new captain Gary Neville, who replaced Roy Keane when he left the club last month.
"The players do not have to lift themselves, they know their responsibilities," Neville said. "I am sure we will hear a lot over the next few days about how we are not going to be playing European football after Christmas. There will be a circus but we have to remove ourselves from that." Steve Bruce, manager of 19th-place Birmingham City, said it's hard to fathom that Ferguson's job could be on the line. "If he's under pressure, God help the rest of us," he said. If Man U is on the slide, Everton is on the rise.
After picking up only three points in its first eight games, Everton is playing as well as any club in the Premier League. The Toffees have won four of their last six league games, and could pick up more points in December against West Ham, Bolton, Sunderland and Aston Villa. "We are looking at things positively," Everton manager David Moyes said. "The points we have taken recently would stand alongside most of the top teams."
Eight games are scheduled for Saturday: Liverpool vs. Middlesbrough; Birmingham vs. Fulham; Blackburn vs. West Ham; Bolton vs. Aston Villa; Charlton vs. Sunderland; Chelsea vs. Wigan; West Brom vs. Manchester City; Newcastle vs. Arsenal. Portsmouth plays at Tottenham on Monday, reports the AP. N.U.