Martinez capable of ending Old Trafford drought

Posted by Luke O'Farrell

Roberto Martinez is about to embark on his toughest examination since taking the reins, with just four days separating the trips to Manchester United and Arsenal -- two of the unhappiest hunting grounds for those in royal blue.

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The last Everton manager to emerge from Old Trafford with three points was Howard Kendall, in the midst of his second spell in charge, as the Blues swept to a 3-0 victory during the inaugural Premier League season in 1992.

There are those slightly longer in the tooth who can recall vintage performances against United, such as the 5-0 demolition at Goodison in 1984, but the sight of the Red Devils on the fixture list is an unpleasant one for most. Since the '92 win, the Old Trafford record is zero wins, four draws and 16 defeats.

Glance back through the fixture list, survey the numerous trips along the M62 over the past two decades, and recount those in which attacking intent epitomised the performance. Only two examples spring to mind: the 4-4 draw in 2012 being the only one under the conservative guidance of David Moyes.

In addition, though now in the opposing dugout, the methods of Moyes continue to dominate the build up to this match. Leaving under a cloud as his contract expired; Moyes tarnished his image with a succession of derisory offers for Leighton Baines in the summer.

Angering supporters previously grateful to the man who turned the club from relegation challengers to European contenders, the current United boss has irrevocably burned many bridges in recent months. His notion that the refusal to sell Baines and Marouane Fellaini was "holding the players back" only increased the irritation among Evertonians.

Furthermore, the lack of pre-match credit toward his successor merely antagonises the situation, with Moyes preferring to reference himself. The idea that "Roberto is doing a really good job keeping it going" takes backhanded complimenting to new lows. Although, if overhauling the style of play, giving youth a chance, and tackling big matches without fear is the definition of "keeping it going", then long may these early signs continue.

Among the numerous traits and techniques brought to Everton by Martinez, the most relevant, especially heading into Wednesday, is the lack of fear in these kinds of fixtures. Though the recent visit to Manchester City ended in defeat, it hinted at the type of display expected under the new regime.

Proactive rather than reactive, which was evident in the recent Merseyside derby when the raw potential of Gerard Deulofeu replaced the injured Leighton Baines, Martinez is well equipped and perfectly capable of ending the 21-year wait for victory at the home of the champions.

Armed with an in-form attacking quartet, comprising of the exciting, youthful talents of Deulofeu and Ross Barkley and the more experienced Kevin Mirallas and Steven Pienaar, Martinez has the enviable but difficult choice of choosing whom to leave out. Behind them are the well-balanced midfield duo of James McCarthy and Gareth Barry, who are approaching their best in front of a defence with seven clean sheets in 13 matches.

Nonetheless, while the bold adventure may backfire, the shift toward attack is pleasing sight regardless of the eventual result. Martinez has already mentioned the need to be brave in an attempt to win, as opposed to a clean-sheet damage-limitation setup, and the contrast between the old and the new at Everton could not be greater.

Fortunately, at least on early indications, with the season more than a third completed, Everton appear the better for the change in leadership. Wednesday gives Martinez a chance to reinforce this theory.


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