DARRON GIBSON has warned Everton FC to beware a wounded animal when they begin their Premier League campaign at home to Manchester United on Monday.
United were beaten to last season’s championship on goal difference by neighbours City following a dramatic finale in May.
The Old Trafford side had been on course to comfortably win the title until, with four games remaining, they were held 4-4 at home by Everton in an extraordinary encounter.
And Gibson, who left United for Goodison in January, believes there will be “anger” among Sir Alex Ferguson’s side when they visit next week.
“It makes it even bigger given what we did at Old Trafford last season and everyone is excited,” said the Republic of Ireland midfielder.
“They try to win every game but maybe there is a bit of anger there because the game against us lost them the league really, but we will go out and try and get the right result.
“They would have been wounded to lose the title to anyone but especially losing it to the noisy neighbours as they are known.”
While fellow midfielder Marouane Fellaini struggles with a groin injury, Gibson is confident he will be fit to play on Monday despite a thigh strain keeping him out of last weekend’s trip to Malaga and Ireland’s midweek friendly in Serbia.
And he added: “Pre-season has gone really well. In terms of results it has not been exciting but the squad as a whole, everyone is fit, and we are all looking forward to the first game.
“I had a thigh strain but it is okay now so I am just going to prepare for the next few days and everyone is ready to go now.
“It is the first pre-season where I have come back really excited because I know I have a good chance of playing in nearly every game so I really hope it goes well.
“I just want to play as many games as possible, stay fit, score more goals – everything really. I am just looking forward to the first proper season of my career.”
Meanwhile, new boy Steven Naismith has declared himself fit to make his Everton debut on Monday after coming through Scotland’s 3-1 friendly win over Australia at Hibernian on Wednesday night.
Naismith hasn’t played a senior match since suffering a cruciate ligament injury while playing with Rangers last October.
But following an encouraging warm-up programme, the 25-year-old striker is reiterated his desire to start against United.
“I am looking forward to it,” said Naismith. “I have a good pre-season and all that hard work is going to be put into practise.
“Hopefully with what I have done in pre-season and what I do in training in the next few days, I can show the manager that I am capable of starting.”