Everton have never been better placed to end 25-year wait for trophy

Everton have endured a barren 25 years since their 1995 FA Cup triumph over Manchester United… but under Carlo Ancelotti and with Dominic Calvert-Lewin firing the Toffees have never been better placed to stop the rot ahead of their League Cup clash

  • Paul Rideout’s header saw Everton beat Manchester United in May 1995 
  • They came close to winning the 2009 FA Cup but lost to Chelsea in the final 
  • Carlo Ancelotti has won the biggest prizes with Real Madrid and Bayern Munich 
  • Now it is hoped he can lead Everton to beat United again on their way to glory 

It has been more than 25 years since Everton last won a major trophy, and the period between May 1995 and now has proven to be an agonising period of time for the ever-present Premier League club. 

A Paul Rideout header following Graham Stuart’s shot off the bar saw the Toffees claim a 1-0 victory against Manchester United in the 1995 FA Cup final and win the cup for a fifth time after withstanding the pressure exerted on Neville Southall’s goal by Sir Alex Ferguson’s men.

But ever since that day at Wembley, Everton fans have suffered heartbreak in all domestic competitions and have had to watch Merseyside rivals Liverpool dominate the accolades won by teams in the city. 

It has been more than 25 years since Everton’s last trophy which was the 1995 FA Cup

Paul Rideout’s header saw the Toffees claim their fifth FA Cup by beating Manchester United

Qualification for the Champions League – no doubt a target for this season – came under David Moyes in 2005, but the open-top bus trophy parades and subsequent celebrations appeared to be exclusively reserved for the red half of Merseyside following their 2005 Champions League title and FA Cup win the following year.

The 2009 FA Cup final against Chelsea is the closest the Toffees have come since to silverware since beating United, but after an excellent start with a Louis Saha goal inside the first minute, Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard turned the game on its head to secure the cup for the Stamford Bridge outfit.

Hopes of ending their barren run without silverware were high in the latter part of that decade, but the Blues once again proved to be Everton’s nemesis after knocking them out of the League Cup at the semi-final stage in 2007-08.

But more than 10 years on from those disappointments, hopes have been raised that boss Carlo Ancelotti – having won a combined 20 trophies in Germany, Spain, Italy and England with some of the biggest clubs including Real Madrid, PSG, Chelsea and Bayern Munich – could help end that drought.

The club have suffered heartache since including the 2009 FA Cup final against Chelsea when Louis Saha (left) scored the opening goal inside a minute

The Italian now leads his side in the quarter-finals of the League Cup against United hoping that the memory of 1995 can spur the current crop of players onto claiming silverware under him.

The Goodison Park side have already netted 12 goals in the competition this season, including a 4-1 victory against West Ham in the previous round which saw Dominic Calvert-Lewin net his second hat-trick of the season.

The England striker and team-mate Richarlison have both enjoyed the run in the competition so far, with the duo having netted three goals each from their two cup appearances in 2020-21, while Moise Kean had also enjoyed some minutes and scored goals in the first few rounds before being shipped out on loan to PSG. 

Calvert-Lewin now has 150 Everton appearances to his name and his storming start to the season has seen him dominate the best defenders in the country in the air and add a presence in the centre forward role that his team-mates can play to and work around.

This season however, Dominic Calvert-Lewin has led the line in the league and cup fixtures

The striker netted a second hat-trick of the season in the third round against West Ham 

The added quality in the final third following the arrival of the creative James Rodriguez from Real Madrid has no doubt helped push Calvert-Lewin up to the next level, and with full-back Lucas Digne also hitting form with four assists for the season before getting injured, opposition defences have often struggled to block off all the avenues to feed him.

The 23-year-old is currently on a three-game run without scoring having scored 14 goals already this season as well as a first goal for England against Wales after being called-up by Gareth Southgate.

But even when he is not scoring, he remains a nuisance for all sides and his work off the ball by dropping slightly deeper is making him one of the league – and England’s – most well-rounded strikers. 

Earlier this week, he was named Everton Fans’ Footballer of the Year for 2020 after scooping 70 per cent of the vote, but few would doubt he would trade that prize in for a medal around this neck towards the end of the season.

Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison (front) have enjoyed success in the competition so far while James Rodriguez (third from front) has made them more creative

There was slight concern with the Toffees’ form after beating the Hammers in the third round however, with Ancelotti’s men suffering a slump which led to fears that the squad could not maintain their excellent start to the campaign.

Only two wins came from their following eight games – which included a 3-1 home defeat by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s United – with Leeds, Newcastle and Burnley all taking points off them too.

However, the Toffees have sprung back to life over the course of the last 10 days and have recorded impressive Premier League victories at home to Chelsea and Arsenal and away at Leicester.

The hosts were perhaps not at their best against the Gunners, but the fact they rarely looked threatened by Mikel Arteta’s men could be an ominous sign for those sides left in the League Cup that they can now win ugly as well as with style. 

A string of three wins in a row has put them back in the running for the Champions League places and they currently occupy the final spot, on the same points as Wednesday’s opponents United.

United however won the last fixture between these two sides with a 3-1 win at Goodison Park

And midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure insists they go into the game confident and believing in their ability to end their trophy drought. 

‘These last three wins are very good for our confidence,’ Doucoure told Everton TV. ‘We know we can beat anyone in this league. We proved that already.

‘We beat Tottenham in the first game of the season and we just beat three big teams. United is another one and we want to beat them on Wednesday.

‘There is a big rivalry between us and United. They have got a lot of quality players. We need to be strong defensively, and to score goals.

The Toffees suffered a slump but wins against Chelsea and Arsenal have during this month

‘At the moment, we are defending very well and we can win on Wednesday. The manager told us the importance of the game and we are going to give 100 per cent, always.

‘We believe we can win a trophy this season.’

Salford City, Fleetwood Town and West Ham are not the sort of ties that will determine whether that belief can become reality, but against a resurgent United – who have won all bar one of their top-flight fixtures since winning at Goodison – are on a quest of their own following their recent upturn in form.

The Old Trafford outfit have failed to win a trophy since the 2017 Europa League final victory against Ajax, a considerable period of time for a club that has almost become synonymous with the biggest prizes on offer in the game.

United have yet to concede in the competition after putting three past Luton Town and Brighton on their away trips, but a trip to Goodison Park will test some of the fringe players such as Juan Mata and Daniel James who have seen few minutes this season.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be looking to end United’s own trophy drought running since 2017

Nevertheless, Doucoure highlighted his side will need to demonstrate defensive solidity, and while the likes of Jonjoe Kenny and Niels Nkounkou have seen Carabao Cup minutes so far, Ancelotti may be forced to bring in more experienced full-backs as well as Yerry Mina, who dominated in the air so well against Arsenal, for the quarter-final tie. 

But Ancelotti – and Solskjaer for that matter – will be keen not to overbear their first-team regulars with minutes in a competition which regularly features low down on the priority lost.

Therefore, the most challenging aspect of this tie for the duo is how they can maintain their side’s competitive edge while allowing for some squad rotation during a busy festive period, with United having to consider a trip to Leicester on Boxing Day and the hosts welcoming Manchester City to Goodison Park on December 28.

However, fighting talk from Ancelotti recently certainly suggests he will not take the opposition or competition lightly whatever the festive period may hold in store.  

Ancelotti may be forced to turn to experience defenders Yerry Mina and Michael Keane

‘I would like to finish the contract [at Everton] because it will be the first time, apart from Milan where I spent eight years, that I have stayed more than two years [at a club].

‘I would like to finish my contract here and win trophies with something special. At the moment, I feel good. I think the club feel good with me and when the relationship is good, you can continue without problem.

‘The project this club has, excites me. To bring Everton back to the top is a big, big motivation for me.

‘I would like to do this. If you go to Real Madrid, they ask you to win the Champions League. If you go to Everton, they want to win trophies, so it doesn’t change, the motivation stays the same.

Ancelotti will hope that his side can maintain their charge for trophies unlike previous years

‘This is the motivation that makes me like my job.’

The immediate motivation will no doubt to avenge their Premier League defeat by the Red Devils earlier this season by showing more of the ‘nasty bits’ that Calvert-Lewin stated his side had done well against Arsenal at the weekend.

But more long-term – particularly with the Carabao Cup final now put back until late April with the hope that fans will be allowed to see the Wembley showpiece – the boss will hope that with Allan and Rodriguez to come back into the side, their trophy challenge can be maintained when it has fallen away in seasons past.

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