I'm working on day four of a fever. So forgive me for the brevity of this intro. Let's get right to the questions.
CC: With the success that Everton have had this year under Martinez, and the struggles Moyes has had with United, there seems to be a narrative starting that perhaps Moyes was over rated all those years at Everton. Is there something to this, or is it just crazy talk?
Royal Blue Mersey: There is no doubt that when Moyes was hired, he was the right man for the job, and he did a damned fine job too. Everton were wallowing in the relegation spots, and he dragged the team into the top half of the table. He instilled a sense of confidence in the team and gave them a gritty, tough identity.
However, towards the last few years of his tenure, it looked like he had hit his ceiling and would only be able to take the club so far, somewhere between positions 5-8. Part of this could be due to the limited budget he had to work with. Which is why fans were very curious to see what success he attains at United, which would put to rest the theories that all that was holding Everton back under him was the tight purse-strings. Martinez has a different philosophy. He brings swagger to the team. He is not reactive as Moyes was, and wants to impose the team's style of play no matter who they are playing against. Let's see how that works out.
CC: A big part of Everton's success this year has come from the outstanding players that are there on loan. Does it worry you that you're going to have to send them back next year? Or do you think that Martinez has the kind of stature and plays the kind of football that will allow him to constantly bring in excellent players on loan?
RBM: Sounds like you've been talking to some of the Everton fans, because this very question is one of the hottest topics in Toffee forums everywhere. We have Gareth Barry, Romelu Lukaku and Gerard Deulofeu here on loan, and all three are key cogs in the works. Barry is out of contract at the end of the season and has said he would like to stay. Lukaku and Jose Mourinho have had some unpleasant exchanges and it'll be interesting to see if The Special One will swallow his pride and welcome the Belgian back, because they certainly need his skill set. It'll take a very large amount of money for Everton to buy him outright, money they don't have. As for Deulofeu, news has recently come out that Everton and Barcelona had discussed a loan extension for a second year if he is not required back at Nou Camp immediately. We'll see how that shakes out depending on how Barca do this season.
One thing we do have to say about Martinez - he is far more likely to attract a better class of player to Everton (even on loan) than Moyes ever did. Skilled players know they have a place in the Everton system and they will get a chance to play depending on form, unlike with the Scotsman who was very prone to playing favourites over form.
CC: Everton are currently one point out of the top four, and only seven points off the lead. Is this about as good as you could have expected the season to go? What was your realistic goal before the season started and what are your goals now?
RBM: Oh we'd have taken this with open hands had we known at the beginning of the season this is where we would be! Manager changes are always fraught with uncertainty and after the pretty dour start to Martinez's tenure, we are very well place now for what could end up being a successful season. The goals really remain the same - a spot in Europe at the end of the season (Champions League is of course the preferred destination) and a long Cup run (it'd have to be the FA Cup, after the Blues go ko-ed by you guys from the League Cup).
Projected lineup, and score prediction
RBM: The starting lineup should be very similar to the past few weeks, with the only change being James McCarthy, who is suspended for this one after picking up five yellows. Howard in goal, and in defence from left to right Oviedo, Distin, Jagielka and Coleman. Barry and Osman as the holding midfielders. Pienaar on the left wing, Mirallas on the right and Barkley orchestrating from the middle, with Lukaku the sole striker upfront. After the pair of high-pressure away matches at Old Trafford and the Emirates, I worry that the team will have a letdown game and fully expect Fulham to score in the first half - Berbatov usually finds a way to beat Howard. After that it'll be a siege on the Cottagers defence, with Mirallas nabbing one late and the game ending 1-1.