Manchester: Manchester United manager David Moyes claimed his side’s Premier League title bid will gather momentum before the end of the year as he prepares to welcome former club Everton to Old Trafford on Wednesday.
The Red Devils have slipped to eighth place in the table after consecutive 2-2 draws on the road against Cardiff City and Tottenham Hotspur in their last two matches.
But with fixtures against sides lower down in the league, including Aston Villa, Stoke, Hull and Norwich, to come after their game against Everton, Moyes does not think it will be long before his side count among the title challengers.
“We are concerned that we are not as close as we would like to be, but it is a long season and I do think we have got room to get better and progress. That is without a doubt,” he said.
“Hopefully we will be there or thereabouts. There are a lot of games coming up in the next eight weeks and we hope to be in the mix at the end of that period.
“Tottenham was not an easy place to go to and they had their own pride and they showed that in their performance. Now we have a week that sees us with two home matches. We have had three away on the bounce and won in the Champions League and picked up two draws. It is not ideal but not the worst.”
Moyes also said striker Wayne Rooney, who scored both United’s goals in their draw with Spurs, has deserved the plaudits he has received for his performances recently as he prepares to face his boyhood club again.
An 18-year-old Rooney was sold to United for £26 million (Dh156.48 million) in 2004 by Moyes when he was in charge of Everton.
“He deserves the adulation he is getting,” added Moyes. “He is playing well and scoring goals. When the moments come, he is taking them.”
United will check on the fitness of Dutch striker Robin van Persie, who has been struggling with toe and groin injuries and missed the trip to Tottenham. Midfielder Michael Carrick is definitely out as he recovers from a leg injury.
Everton manager Roberto Martinez does not think his players will go to Old Trafford with the fear they might have had in previous seasons.
Moyes previously stated that whenever he took his Everton side to face United on their own turf, his objective was “to get out of Old Trafford alive” and perhaps inevitably the Scot never won at the ground as an opposition manager.
Everton fans would have to cast their mind back to August 1992 for their last victory at Old Trafford, when they won 3-0 during Howard Kendall’s second spell in charge.
But Martinez insisted there was no sense of trepidation in his squad ahead of the match. “These are games that we are not expected to win but, clearly, if we want to achieve something special, we need to be able to break the mentality of going to the big grounds and get some wins,” Martinez said.
“Over the last 10 years, we have not beaten Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool at their own grounds and we need to address that.
“We need to make sure we are ourselves. We need to know how we are going to play and who we are. That is a fantastic test and challenge to have on Wednesday. We are excited about going to Old Trafford.”
Everton have no fresh injury concerns ahead of the match, with former United midfielder Darron Gibson (knee), defender Leighton Baines (ankle) and striker Arouna Kone (knee) missing.