Everton vs. Manchester United: 5 Key Battles to Watch For
New signings Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa are sure to be involved for the Red Devils, as the team seeks to bounce back from their previous disappointing campaign.
But as Everton have proven time and time again, they are not a team to be taken lightly and Sir Alex Ferguson will need to make sure his players are well-prepared for the clash.
Here are five key battles to watch for during the game—battles that will surely decide which team can get their season off to a flyer.
Antonio Valencia vs. Leighton Baines
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The difficulty here is in trying to predict what formation, and consequently what lineup, Sir Alex will choose to deploy Monday.
It would perhaps be the safest option, though, to say that United's flying winger, Antonio Valencia, will start.
He is most likely to operate down the right flank, where he will no doubt come up against Everton's talented left-back, Leighton Baines.
Baines has been a reported target for United this summer, and if he has ever favoured a move to Old Trafford, he'll want to impress his potential new boss (via ESPN).
The English defender's biggest task will be keeping Valencia pegged inside, because if the Ecuadorian can break free down the wing, Baines can forget about catching up with his rival.
Robin van Persie vs. the Big Occasion
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Rarely has there been such pressure placed on the shoulders of a Manchester United signing.
Personally, I would be shocked if Fergie decided to leave Robin van Persie out of his starting team against Everton.
He'll be fit, hungry and raring to go come Monday, and the United boss will find it impossible to ask him to take his spot on the bench.
The only thing that could spoil the Dutchman's debut?
The weight of 600 million worldwide fans' expectations.
Shinji Kagawa vs. Marouane Fellaini
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United's new No. 26, Shinji Kagawa, will face a tough task trying to maneuver his away around Everton's brick wall, Marouane Fellaini.
Fellaini's task will no doubt be to play the spoiler—to not afford Kagawa the space he requires to play his natural game.
With such a wealth of attacking options ahead of him, the Japanese attacking midfielder will be expected to provide a major spark of creativity in the United side, assuming the role of the Paul Scholes of old—marauding behind the strikers and contributing goals and assists in abundance.
On Monday, defensive midfielder Fellaini will be the man standing in his way.
Nikica Jelavic vs. Nemanja Vidic
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Having made the move south from Scottish club Rangers to Everton in January, Nikica Jelavic quickly earned the love of the Toffees faithful by netting an impressive 11 times in 16 appearances in the second half of the season.
On Monday, he'll face off against United's returning captain, Nemanja Vidic, who has now recovered from a knee injury that has kept him sidelined him since December of last year.
Jelavic will be key to his side's progression this season and will be expected to contribute a fair number of goals in attack.
The Serbian brute Vidic will be eager to prevent him from getting off the mark straight away, though.
Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Phil Neville vs. Father Time
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Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Phil Neville are, let's face it, not getting any younger.
Between them, the trio can boast an impressive 57 years of professional football experience.
Whilst Phil Neville is expected to start at right-back for Everton Monday, Scholes and Giggs are by no means guaranteed a place in Sir Alex's team.
However, don't be surprised to see either—or even both—continue to defy the effects of age at the highest level by playing some part.
But will this be the season when any of the three finally decides to hang up their boots...for good?