Match odds: Man Utd evens, The Draw 12/5, Everton 13/5
Staring directly into the blazing sun, drawing perfect circles and making betting predictions for Manchester United v Everton in the year of our lord 2016.
All are widely believed to classic signs of disordered thinking and an at-best tangential relationship with reality and the realms of the possible.
Yet, if any such task is focused upon for long enough, previously unseen patterns can begin to appear and this is certainly the case with the latter of the three pursuits.
Neither side can be trusted to conform to expectations even for two successive fixtures, losing games they should win, winning games they should lose and conspiring to draw here, there and everywhere whether they deserve to or not.
United snapped a streak of four games without a victory by beating a Manchester City side strongly fancied to prevail in their last pre-international break outing.
On the same matchday, Everton reneged on the gung-ho attacking qualities that have been their saving grace all season to submit timidly to a previously out-of-sorts Arsenal at Goodison Park.
Earlier this term they’d done the same when Louis van Gaal’s side visited Merseyside, getting spanked 3-0 in a total non sequitur of a performance.
Nonetheless, within their respective maelstroms of inconsistency there are patterns that point the punter prepared to face ridicule in their pursuit of remuneration in the correct direction.
Win, Lose or Draw?
Both Man United at home and Everton away are actually remarkably consistent at doing one thing – not losing.
The Red Devils have been bested just twice in 24 outings at Old Trafford this season and lost only four more there in the entirety of 2014/15.
Everton, meanwhile have made a mockery of their unpredictable tag on the road this season avoiding defeat in all but two of their 19 away fixtures.
They’ve actually won their last four in succession too, doubling their tally for the season in the process.
However, deeper scrutiny reveals that just one of those victories came against a team in the top half of the Premier League, with the Football League providing three of the patsies.
In fact, an inability to beat teams in the top third of their division is another hidden consistency within the Toffees’ seemingly unfathomable form.
So far they’ve failed to record a single win in 11 matches against sides stationed in the top seven this term, drawing five times and losing six.
Another stalemate might well be the best they can realistically hope for against opposition that demolished them earlier in 2015/16.
Where Everton are concerned, overs will always have a certain allure, but in this case, with their taming at Arsenal hands still relatively fresh in the memory, unders make more sense.
Their hosts’ last three Old Trafford outings (and their last six all told) have rewarded those who foresaw less than three strikes.
The Reds have shipped a mere seven league strikes at home in 2015/16 and are taken to impose their sobering will upon the reckless Toffees attack.
Who will do the damage?
A Roberto Martinez rearguard offers protection about as reliable as the rhythm method and, unfortunately for them, United possess not one, but two young forwards with ice in their veins – Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford.
The Frenchman is in marginally the better form, having struck twice in his last three outings and, at a better price, gets the nod.
Despite their generally-compelling away form this term, Everton have won more corners than their opposition just four times in 19 road games.