(Top midfielder Marouane Fellaini is starting his 5th season with Everton)
We've gone for Everton as our winners on the handicap in the league this season (+28 point headstart) & think they've done some shrewd business this year by holding onto their best players whilst allowing a fading Tim Cahill to leave for America & picking up a wad of cash for an injury prone youngster in Jack Rodwell. The permanent signing of Steven Pienaar is a big positive & Steven Naysmith will link up well with Jelavic after already forming a partnership with the big man at Rangers, they've further bolstered their frontline with the signing of Kevin Mirallas from Olympiakos but he's signed too late to be involved against United. So you'll see that we've a lot of time for Everton this year........ yet we still think that Manchester United are the team to side with here. Everton consistently fail to start well enough, season after season, & while we think their season mightn't be as lopsided as last year (lost 6 of first 10 & only 2 of last 18), they have one of the toughest starts available here.
(Shinji Kagawa - The Whole F'N Show)
United have also gone about improving their attacking options with the signing of last year's top scorer & deserved player of the season Robin van Persie plus the hugely exciting talent that is Shinji Kagawa frrom Borussia Dortmund. Some have commented that attack wasn't necessarily the part of the team that needed upgrading for United & it is certainly worrying that a central midfielder hadn't been signed in 5 years before Nick Powell's arrival, we're not of the same opinion as the pundits (Jamie Redknapp ahem) that Michael Carrick & Paul Scholes are the answers to all of the world's ills! Regardless of central midfield Alex Ferguson has so many quality attacking players to choose from that we can see United coming out & blitzing Everton from all angles as players look to impress with so much competition in those positions. It's conceivable that Wayne Rooney could end dropping deeper than ever as van Persie will likely be the most advanced forward, Valencia, Nani & Young will vie for the wide positions & Kagawa could end up playing close behind the Dutch forward. Coral are going a standout 12/1 for Kagawa to net first (he's a short as 15/2 elsewhere) & that looks a little big for a player that netted 12 in 28 games in his first season for Dortmund & then 17 times last year. Kagawa's scored twice in pre season (Rooney was the only other to get two) & generally looked lively, being involved in most of United's best attacking moments & has the potential to be the outright signing of the season.
(Best in the business - Nemanja Vidic returns from injury for United)
The other big positive for United this year is the return of Nemanja Vidic to the fold after 8 months out with a cruciate ligament injury, the Serb is one of the world's very best centre halves & young keeper David de Gea should really benefit with him in front of him, especially when it comes to corners & set pieces. The latest news for United is worrying though with Rio Ferdinand unlikely to play with a reported groin injury, that could mean Carrick dropping back or a youngster (Michael Keane or Frederic Veseli) starting as Smalling, Jones & Evans are all unready for the start of the season. Whoever starts with Vidic will at least have the best partner available, he'll marshal the defence well & is better at that role than when the same has to be done with Ferdinand. It certainly won't be easy for United but they finished 33 points clear of the Toffees last season which gives an indication of the gap between the two teams in quality & in the first half of last season the Red Devils only dropped points twice on their travels with draws at Stoke & Liverpool - odds of 10/11 for a Manchester United victory look fair.
Manchester United to beat Everton at 10/11 (general)
Shinji Kagawa to score first at 12/1 (Coral)