Sunday's late afternoon tie is one that will capture the imaginations of the neutrals. Manchester United fans have been bemoaning David Moyes, the ex-Everton manager, whilst Evertonians are glad he's gone in place of the more proactive Roberto Martinez. Moyes' side are playing for nothing but pride at this stage of the season but Everton are striving to secure a top four finish.
Manchester United travel to Everton on the back of two straight league wins. Robin van Persie remains absent so we can continue to see Juan Mata deployed centrally behind Wayne Rooney.
Everton are without Phil Jagielka which means young centre-back John Stones will partner Sylvain Distin.
Who will win the midfield battle?
Much of Everton's good form has been built around an impressive midfield. Manchester United on the other hand have had their midfield scrutinized throughout the season, with Moyes seemingly unable to find the correct balance.
Everton's midfield approach is about ball retention and efficient distribution. They are the fifth top side in the Premier League in terms of average possession (Manchester United are sixth) with an average of 55.8% of the ball per game. Largely this has been built around having Gareth Barry at the base of the midfield partnered by James McCarthy, with Ross Barkley in a more advanced position, able to get up and down the pitch and support Romelu Lukaku. Barry and McCarthy are crucial here. Both players are capable of breaking the play up by winning the ball, whilst also being equally adept at distributing it.
The duo are the clubs' top and third best passers respectively in terms of passes per game. Barry's 69 passes per game actually make him the third-best in the Premier League behind Manchester City's Yaya Toure and David Silva. McCarthy and Barry are adept at winning the ball (they average 3.3 and 2.8 tackles per game respectively)
Barkley versus Michael Carrick will be a key duel in this fixture. Barkley will provide the main outlet for Everton if released by the two deeper midfielders. The young Scouser has proven to be a dynamic and powerful runner this season averaging 2.2 successful dribbles per game. Carrick and Tom Cleverley do not possess the same degree of pace and athleticism and will be uncomfortable with Barkley breaking from deep and running into their territory.
As we can see above Barkley was a box-to-box midfielder in the 3-0 win against Arsenal, spending a mixed amount of time between both halves. In the process he completed two out of three attempted dribbles and will no doubt be the main man to be released down the middle against England colleague Carrick on Sunday.
The tussle between these two will be intriguing with it remaining to be seen whether Carrick has the legs to keep up with the young, energetic Evertonian.
United's poor record versus top half teams
Manchester United's record versus the top six teams is horribly poor. In fact, United have won just once under David Moyes versus top six opposition (a home win versus Arsenal) and more generally have picked up just six points from a possible 33 this season. Moyes' side have struggled against the better sides throughout the season and could well struggle again at Goodison Park.
One of the reasons for this has been a failure on Moyes' part to react his tactics to other sides. His team have leaked goals away from home against the better teams and will likely be more cautious going into this tie with Everton, who have a strong record at Goodison Park.
Moyes will have to be more reactive in his approach or risk another humiliating defeat, such as the one Everton dished out to Arsenal. With Everton chasing fourth we can expect them to be in equally buoyant mood when their former manager comes to town.
Everton had a poor record against the top clubs under Moyes but this season the tables have turned.
The Scot’s current side have consistently struggled versus sides in the top six whilst Everton are unbeaten at home versus top six opposition this season.
The clash in styles of both clubs and the subplot of Moyes' return to his former club will dominate the headlines in what is a more important tie for Everton than United, especially after their shock 3-2 defeat versus Crystal Palace.
They’ll be determined to make up for that, and will look to make a fast start.
A goal in the first 15 minutes is at 3.00 - Check out all the Everton vs Manchester United odds here!