Odds: Everton 13/5, Man Utd Evens, The Draw 12/5
Everton could really have picked a better time for a defensive-injury crisis.
In many ways, Roberto Martinez’s managerial stock is as low as it has been at any point since he first assumed dugout duties at Swansea with a full head of thick, black hair.
Even as his Wigan side careened from electro-shock-therapy-necessitating low to brain-bleed inducing high and back before their eventual FA-Cup-sugar-coated exit from the Premier League picture, he was seldom questioned.
Speculation is rife that the ever-optimistic Spaniard could be out on his ear if Everton fail to best Manchester United in their FA Cup semi-final.
The Toffees arrive off the back of 4-0 humbling by friendly-derby foes Liverpool, having last tasted victory in the tie that secured their passage to this stage seven games back.
Ramiro Funes Mori is suspended and in disgrace after his ugly lunge on Divock Origi at Anfield, while Seamus Coleman is absent with a hamstring injury and Phil Jagielka is reportedly struggling with a similar complaint.
John Stones is, at least, expected to recover from the stomach cramps that necessitated his withdrawal against Liverpool, but the participation of premier midfield shield Gareth Barry is far less certain.
Such numbers of horizontal or walking wounded would be grievous for even the best of defences, let alone one that has shipped more than twice in 16 of their 44 outings this term.
United have no such problems, with Chris Smalling overcoming a knock sustained during the midweek half-pace encounter with fellow FA Cup last-four participants Crystal Palace.
Nor could the Red Devils be in better nick, coming into the fixture with five wins from their past six outings.
Win, Lose or Draw?
Back at the beginning of what has turned out to be a tumultuous term, Everton could have been forgiven for looking forward to their dates with the Old Trafford outfit with a certain relish.
They’d beaten them to nil three times in four meetings across 2013/14 and 2014/15.
Instead their dominance of the head-to-head has been upended in spectacular fashion, with United recording clean sheet successes over the Toffees home and away this season.
Louis van Gaal’s men’s ability to snuff out Everton’s attacking threat should prove decisive at the national stadium.
They’ve kept four shutouts in their last six games and currently boast the Premier League’s second-most stringent backline.
Having scored for the last eight games in succession there is also the growing sense that the Reds vibrant band of young attackers always have a goal in them.
One could well be enough against a side that has netted just twice in their last six games.
Van Gaal sent out his United side in an incredibly attacking setup featuring no fewer than six men most suited to playing in a front three in midweek.
They only beat Crystal Palace 2-0, but spurned further presentable chances and there is a feeling that sooner or later a defence is going to be utterly overwhelmed by Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and friends.
Although just one of Everton’s last seven outings and two of the Reds’ last ten may have rewarded the overs backers, this one could well be heading north of the divide.
Who will do the damage?
Everton kept out Martial despite their abject showing against their foes at Goodison Park, but couldn’t stop him bagging the second time the two crossed paths.
This tie represents Rashford’s second bite at the Toffees after he drew a blank in the 1-0 win at Old Trafford.
The Rash has now opened the scoring in three of the last five games in which United have found the net.
An absurd 28 goals have rained in during the last 15 minutes of Everton’s Premier League games this season.