Man U hopes to begin revival against Everton

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Manchester United hopes to begin a revival against Everton. The Toffees hope to continue their own.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:48 IST
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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 Bromwich Albion, Bolton and Birmingham. Heat on Ferguson 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." Man United assistant Carlos Queiroz, who was fired after 12 months at Real Madrid, knows about ups and downs. "You cannot be a professional or a champion in football and only be ready to face the beautiful moments in life," Queiroz said. "You have to be ready to rebound from these bad moments, accept the criticism and learn from it. But I am convinced some of the rubbish being said about us will only make us stronger." 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. Everton confident 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. Chelsea lead with 40 points, followed by Man United with 30, Liverpool with 28, Tottenham with 27, and Arsenal and Bolton with 26. Defending European champion Liverpool, which has won six straight league games and is playing the best soccer in England, is on the verge of a club record. Spanish 'keeper Jose Reina - known as Pepe in Spanish - is just 90 minutes away from equaling Liverpool's team record of 10 straight shutouts. The record was set by Bruce Grobbelaar in 1987-88. "Pepe has an advantage because the team in front of him in defense are working so hard to restrict the chances we concede," manager Rafa Benitez said. "The back four have been outstanding. They are organized and have better concentration than last season. But he is also an intelligent boy and he thinks hard about what he has to do in England." In the Football League Championship, leader Reading hosts Brighton and second-place Sheffield United hosts Burnley. (AP)

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