David Moyes will make his return to Goodison Park on Sunday for the very first time, as Manchester United will travel to Liverpool to take on Everton, the club Moyes called home for ten years. Unsurprisingly, this storyline took most of the attention during the manager's pre-match presser on Friday.
Moyes wanted to make it very clear he doesn't see Sunday's match in this light in any way, via the Red Devils' Twitter account:
Ten years is a long time and Moyes achieved some tremendous things with the Toffees, but as he himself stated, he should focus on his current job, not the position he held in the past:
Everton have enjoyed an excellent season under new manager Roberto Martinez and currently find themselves in fifth place in the Premier League, ahead of United and in the thick of the race for the final tickets for next year's European competitions.
Martinez spoke on Moyes' return, courtesy of BBC.com's Staff:
We are a club full of integrity and style, so we will show the respect to David Moyes and what he's done at our football club.
We all know he's the Manchester United manager now and I'm sure that reception will be very much different, but every Evertonian has got great memories of the job that he did.
But Moyes hasn't given up on European qualification either, and stated he still believes his club can make the top four and earn their way into the UEFA Champions League next year, per the team's official website:
We've said we'll never give in and we won't until we just can't do that. Obviously it's nearly mathematically impossible but we're still trying to make it happen if we can. It's a tough game going to Goodison for any team at any time, as I should know, but we go there with a good away record and will try to make that work again.
The manager then built on his team's away form as he sees this fixture as an excellent test of his team's abilities:
Moyes on Everton clash: "We go there with a great away record and we'll try to keep it going. We'll be tested against a team in good form."— Manchester United (@ManUtd) April 18, 2014
Moyes tried to steer the conversation away from his past efforts at Everton but ended up elaborating on some of his experiences there, via United's website:
I know the players - they are a great group of lads and great professionals who got on with the job and were self-motivated. Over the years, we continued to add players there and it was a great group of young players.
He also talked about the team's fans, as Sunday's atmosphere towards their former manager is anyone's guess at this point:
The fans were always terrific in my time there, very supportive and always right behind the team. We had some really big games there at times and they'll be supporting the team like the Manchester United supporters have for their team. We go there with a great away record and go there trying to keep that going.
Via United Report, Moyes already has one eye on next season, as preparations for the summer transfer window have already started:
Moyes: "I’ve got to say I’m well into my planning with my thoughts and ideas getting ready for next year."— United Report (@UtdReport) April 18, 2014
With regards to injuries and player selection, Squawka quoted the manager on Wayne Rooney's progress:
David Moyes on Wayne Rooney's fitness: "He's trained great this week and has been in really good form." pic.twitter.com/k2uDpg7WBO— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 18, 2014
The experienced England international received a knock during his club's first leg fixture against Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-final, and while he did feature in the return fixture, his availability moving forward was still in doubt.
Robin van Persie will certainly not play, as the Dutch striker is yet to return to Manchester:
With van Persie's continued absence, the news Rooney has looked perfectly fine all week will be more than welcome to Moyes. The forward-turned-midfielder has 17 total goals and 15 assists on the season, per to WhoScored.com, and his steady production will be needed to offset the loss of van Persie.
Everton have only conceded 34 goals all season, the second-lowest number in the Premier League according to WhoScored. United's next best scorer on the club's list is Danny Welbeck, with 9 goals in Premier League action.
Rooney's 15 nearly doubles that mark, further emphasising how badly his team will need him on Sunday.
Moyes commented on the status of several other players as well, as he expects Maroune Fellaini to be available for selection:
With Everton leading the Mancunians by nine points and the Red Devils still holding a game in hand, Sunday's match will be Moyes' last chance of realistically making a play for the league's final Champions League ticket.
A loss at Goodison Park would most likely eliminate the team from contention for European football altogether, concluding what has already been a nightmare season for the defending English champions.