Martinez expects Man Utd comeback
Published 19/04/2014 | 18:32
Everton boss Roberto Martinez has no doubt Manchester United will be Premier League title challengers again next season.
David Moyes makes his first return to Goodison Park as United manager on Sunday for a match that could go a long way to deciding the Champions League qualifiers.
But it is Everton, the club he left after 11 years in charge last summer, who are fighting for the top four while United languish in seventh place.
Martinez still puts them in the fight for fourth, even though United are 10 points adrift of current incumbents Arsenal with only five games to play.
And asked if he expected United to be in the mix next season, the Toffees boss said: " You have to because of the history, the finances, the expectations.
"Manchester United will finish the season strong, I've got no doubts about that. Their next few games, I'm sure they're going to fight for a European place and to finish as high as they can.
"Even at this stage, they should be fighting for fourth place. It's ingrained in the DNA of Manchester United. It's not in doubt that they will be doing that and they will be challenging for the title next season.
"I expect Spurs as well to be fighting for the top four. When we started the season there were six football clubs who purely down to the finances were forced to fight for the title. We gatecrashed the party."
There has been little to cheer for Moyes this season but away form has been one plus point.
United have the best record in the division on the road and are looking for a fifth straight away league win.
Martinez said: "There is always a bit of a transitional period when you get a new management team in place but you need to remember this team won the championship last season and you don't become a bad team overnight.
"We know now they've got a bit of stability, in the league they've been very strong and we expect a really tough game on Sunday.
"It's not about what we're going to face, we know we're going to face a very strong team, it's more about how we can perform and how good we can be on the day, and that's where the focus is."
Everton's Champions League charge stalled in midweek when their run of seven consecutive league wins was ended by a home loss to Crystal Palace.
That left them a point behind Arsenal, but Martinez is confident his side have learned from the experience.
The Spaniard said: " When you get into a position where it's in your hands, you want to win so much, and you need to have that knowhow and experience that you don't get exposed.
"On Wednesday we were focused on trying to break down probably the strongest defensive system in the league, and we succeeded in it because we scored two goals, but the only part of the plan that didn't work was we conceded three, and that's not us at all.
"I don't think the awareness was there that we were going to get hurt in the other box. That's what we need to learn as we go along and as we grow.
"You cannot forget the basics in any game. I think we're a stronger team now than we were on Wednesday and we're going to use that in the next four games."
Phil Jagielka has an outside chance of being involved for Everton. A behind-closed-doors match has been arranged next week to give the Toffees captain some game time after a hamstring problem but he could make the bench this weekend.
James McCarthy was only a substitute against Palace but has now recovered fully from a muscular injury. Fellow midfielders Steven Pienaar and Darron Gibson (both knee) miss out again.
United striker Wayne Rooney has overcome a toe injury and is fit to play against his former club.
Fellow forward Robin van Persie (knee) remains sidelined, but midfielder Marouane Fellaini has recovered from a calf injury that kept him out of United's trip to Bayern Munich last week.
Defender Jonny Evans is a doubt due to a long-term calf problem and right-back Rafael (thigh) is unavailable.