It has been a long six month spell as Manchester United manager for David Moyes.
After taking over from Sir Alex Ferguson on July 1 2013, few were under the impression that he would simply replace Ferguson like-for-like, but even fewer could have imagined that the Champions would go on to endure their worst ever start to a Premier League season.
They look vulnerable at Old Trafford, the manager is failing to inspire his players, and they have now lost three games on the bounce for the first time in over a decade - with the worst imaginable start to 2014.
David Moyes is under pressure, and his managerial qualities are really being tested. This is something that was rarely seen at Everton, as Moyes was one of the most well-respected managers in the league.
This no longer seems to be the case, and his own image has been harmed as much as United’s since he was chosen to take over. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and many will feel that had Moyes remained at Everton, things would be looking a lot brighter for himself and the Reds.
Moyes was never going to turn down the most successful team in England, who would? But had he not been selected, he would have enjoyed another solid season with the Toffee’s. The squad he has picked up at United is arguably not even as strong as the current Everton side, and although Roberto Martinez is doing a fantastic job, Moyes built the majority of that squad.
Looking at the current squads, it is difficult to say United are a stronger team.
Starting from the back, former United keeper Tim Howard is a more experienced goalkeeper than David De Gea, and arguably a more reliable one too.
De Gea has undoubtedly improved since his first season in Manchester, but Tim Howard has been so solid for Everton once more this season, with nine clean sheets already. De Gea has only managed five, playing one more game along the way.
This leads us on to the defensive structure at both clubs. David Moyes built the foundations of Everton’s success through a strong, impenetrable back-line. This has stayed intact under Martinez, but unfortunately for Moyes, the Red Devils have not looked so sharp defensively. United have conceded 24 goals in the league so far, whereas the Toffees have only shipped 19.
At full-back, it is a close call, though many would say that Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines is a stronger pairing than Rafael and the faltering Patrice Evra.
Coleman and Baines have eight goals between them in addition to their impressive defensive play. Rafael and Evra have contributed just one goal all season.
At the heart of the defence for Everton sit Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin who have been ever-present this season, playing 37 of the 40 games together. This stability is key to their defensive success.
It’s stability that Moyes is missing at United, whether it’s down to injuries or squad rotation, it just isn’t working as it should be for the Red Devils. Nemanja Vidic, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Jonny Evans and Rio Ferdinand have all played but Moyes is yet to find, or rather use a consistent pairing.
Vidic and Ferdinand are probably the best option when both fit, and the Reds have definitely got a better crop of centre-backs than Everton do, though maybe down to numbers more than anything else.
Midfield is where the problems lie for Moyes, especially in the centre, as there is a distinct lack of creative talent in the middle of the park for United. Marouane Fellaini was brought in, but has been unable to get a run of games due to injuries, and the team need someone a bit more agile, and Shinji Kagawa has yet to meet the type of quality expected of him.
Carrick and Cleverley are the most utilised duo, but although usually consistent, they do not offer that spark that United so desperately require.
Everton have no such problem, with Ross Barkley providing the type of attacking play that the Old Trafford faithful want to see. Barkley has been brilliant this year, creating 19 chances so far, and scoring three times. Gareth Barry, Leon Osman and James McCarthy all offer Martinez the stability in an impressive midfield.
On the wings, United have an abundance of talent, but they are not providing anywhere near enough chances.
This may be down to tactics, lack of confidence or lack of consistent playing time, but Valencia, Nani, Ashley Young, Adnan Januzaj and Wilfried Zaha have just four assists between them. Valencia and Januzaj have two each, and both have been solid enough this campaign.
A lot has been made of Januzaj in his first season, but is he any more promising than Ross Barkley? We’ll see.
Everton use Gerard Deulofeu, Steven Pienaar and Kevin Mirallas on the wings, and the attacking trio have managed to provide seven assists so far, three more than United’s wingers. It is tough to choose between the squads here, as there is so much talent on both sides. The trio at Goodison Park have been more efficient up to this point though.
Finally, looking at the strike force, it is clear that this is the only area of the pitch that it Manchester United have an undoubtedly greater selection.
Wayne Rooney, Robin Van Persie, Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez are all quality forwards, and the absence of Van Persie is sorely missed at the moment. Rooney has been the Reds’ best player this season, scoring nine goals and assisting the same amount, creating 40 chances on the way.
Goalscoring hasn’t been the problem, though Moyes would like to have seen more than 33 goals scored up to now, especially after scoring four on the opening weekend. Getting Van Persie and Rooney playing together again will be a huge boost for Moyes.
Everton have only needed to look to one striker this season. Romelu Lukaku, on loan from Chelsea, has scored nine goals for the Toffee’s, who have managed to find the net 32 times all season, just one goal less than Moyes’ men.
Nikica Jelavic and Steven Naismith have scored just one league goal between them all season, as they have struggled to dislodge Lukaku from his starting role. Arouna Koné is out for the season with a knee injury.
Looking at the two squads makes it hard to justify who is significantly better, and although it would be expected that Manchester United would have a far greater squad than Everton, this is simply not the case.
Statistically, Everton have been more productive in many areas, and a case can be made that many of the Toffee’s side would get into the current United team.
David Moyes might just be looking to bring in a few more names from his former clubs as he looks to strengthen a United side who desperately need some inspiration - but expect Everton to fight him tooth and nail.
image: © ericthefish