London: Roberto Martinez’s appointment as manager of Everton was almost overlooked amidst the fall-out of the club’s former boss David Moyes moving to Manchester United to replace Alex Ferguson.
Yet Everton travel to Old Trafford on Wednesday above them in the league and playing with a style and confidence, which suggests they are realistic top-four contenders.
When the new Premier League season kicked off in August, all eyes were on Moyes as he began the almost impossible task of succeeding Britain’s most successful football manager.
United’s 12-match unbeaten streak after a dismal start has lifted the spotlight slightly away from Moyes and it is Spaniard Martinez, who is suddenly attracting attention.
His side have lost only once in 13 league matches, are only below fourth-placed Liverpool on goal difference and thrashed Stoke City 4-0 at the weekend with a performance that showed the Goodison Park club have quickly adopted Martinez’s philosophy.
A positive result at United on Wednesday and it would be hard to argue against the view that of all the changes in the managerial merry-go-round in the summer, Martinez’s appointment by Everton has had the greatest impact so far.
Martinez, who led Wigan Athletic to FA Cup glory last season despite relegation, says his side must now start to believe they can really mix it with the big boys. “This week will have a huge bearing on our season,” Martinez, whose side then go to leaders Arsenal on Sunday, said.
“It would be very easy for me to play it down but we are going to go to Old Trafford and the Emirates. They are games that we are not expected to win but, if we want to achieve something special, we need to be able to break the mentality of going to the big grounds and getting some wins.
“Over the last 10 years, we have not beaten Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool at their grounds and we need to address that. We need to make sure we are ourselves,” Martinez added. “We need to know how we are going to play and who we are. We are excited about going to Old Trafford.”
Robin van Persie could return from injury for United. The Dutch striker has been sidelined with a groin problem since scoring the winner in United's 1-0 victory over Arsenal on Nov. 10.
But David Moyes, who faces former club Everton for the first time since succeeding Alex Ferguson, told a news conference on Tuesday: “Robin is OK. He has a chance of playing.”
Moyes was in charge at Goodison Park for 11 years, during which time Everton's best league finish was fourth in 2005.
Arsenal go into their home clash with Hull City four points clear at the top of the table. Arsene Wenger is set to make changes to his starting line-up in a bid to keep his players fresh as the campaign enters the busy Christmas period.
That may well see Theo Walcott included following a spell on the bench after he recovered from an abductor injury, while Tomas Rosicky could also be selected. That would potentially see Jack Wilshere drop out, with Wenger having previously admitted that he needs to carefully manage the number of games that the England international plays.