With Wayne Rooney on fire, Manchester United are 5/6 favourites to win at Everton

Everton v Manchester United, Premier League, February 20, 2010

Everton 4/1; Draw 11/4; Manchester United 5/6

Wayne Rooney signed for Manchester United from Everton for a fee of £25.6 million in August 2004, it seemed like good business at the time and now it appears Sir Alex Ferguson may have secured a bargain. The England striker who famously wore a t-shirt saying “Once a Blue, always a Blue,” returns to Goodison Park as arguably the in-form striker in world football.

Rooney (1/2 to be the league’s top scorer) is simply irrepressible at the moment, his brace in the San Siro on Tuesday night has led to yet more praise from the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson and David Beckham and his importance to Manchester United and England is becoming more obvious by the week. Wazza’s two goals in Italy were his 24th and 25th of the campaign and he has now scored nine goals in ten games in 2010.

The 24-year-old striker has played against Everton seven times since leaving in 2004 and has scored twice. Interestingly, Rooney has scored both his goals against his old club away from home which suggests he still enjoys playing at Goodison Park. In the past Rooney has been booed by the fans that used to idolise him, on Saturday he could well receive polite recognition after becoming such a crucial member of England’s World Cup squad. (Manchester United are 15/8 to score in both halves.)

More than anything Rooney has become a leader of men this season as was shown by his halftime rant at his team mates that were not “doing their jobs” against AC Milan. This Manchester United side have not lost their will to win but there are gaps in defence and midfield that can be exploited by the Toffees.

Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans (United are 6/4 to keep a clean sheet, 4/7 against) were pretty woeful against Ronaldinho and co in the Champions League and Sir Alex Ferguson has a big decision over who to start on the right wing. Nani returned to the player with no end product in midweek and Luis Antonio Valencia will be hoping for a start after his impressive cameo. Fergie may also make room for Dimitar Berbatov as he looks to rotate players without the injured pair Nemanja Vidic and Ryan Giggs.

Everton were also impressive in Europe earlier this week against Sporting Lisbon but the tie is very much still alive following Sylvain Distin’s late sending off and the penalty from Miguel Veloso. The Toffees have been strong at home in recent weeks and the confidence flowing through the side was illustrated by a brilliant first goal against the Portuguese giants scored by Steven Pienaar and set up thanks to a superb back heel from Tim Cahill. (Everton are 3/1 to score in both halves.)

David Moyes’ side have had a couple of blips lately, most notably an FA Cup defeat to Birmingham and a Merseyside derby loss to Liverpool, but they are a stark improvement on the Everton team from the start of the season and have shown they can live with the best. (Everton are 6/1 to claim a top six finish.) Everton were hugely unlucky not to win at Arsenal in January and their 2-1 win over Chelsea in their last Premier League match was fully deserved.

Louis Saha was the hero against the Premier League leaders and he will relish playing against his former club. Moyes will be without Marouane Fellaini who is out for the rest of the season and John Heitinga should come back in after he was ineligible for the Sporting Lisbon match. Elsewhere, Landon Donovan has been in good form since arriving in England and Leighton Baines will be aiming to prove he could be a good option for Fabio Capello following the injury to Ashley Cole.

Manchester United beat Everton 3-0 in November (10/11 to be under 2.5 goals, 21/20 to be over) with Darren Fletcher stealing the plaudits with a fine goal. Sir Alex Ferguson will be eager to keep the pressure on Chelsea who play Wolves later on in the day but if his team defend as they did in Italy, Everton could prosper as they did in the FA Cup semi-final, albeit on penalties, last season.

101gg predicts: Everton 1 – Manchester United 3 (18/1)

Everton 4/1; Draw 11/4; Manchester United 5/6

Full match odds here.