Etherington tormented Gary Neville in the 2-1 defeat at the Britannia Stadium on Sunday.
Neville should have been sent-off after twice clattering Etherington but was spared a second yellow card by referee Andre Marriner.
Sir Alex Ferguson then wisely replaced Neville - making his 600th appearance for the club - at half-time and spare him from another tortuous 45 minutes marking the in-form Etherington.
The former Tottenham and West Ham winger has found his best form since linking up with Tony Pulis in January 2009 and has created five goals for the Potters this season.
And Higginbotham believes that he is due a chance to impress on the biggest stage of all.
He said: "Neville is a great professional and has been a great player throughout his career, but Matty is doing really well at the moment and he must be there or thereabouts when it comes to the England squad.
"He is a nightmare for defenders.
"The decision was one of those things. A few people will have looked at it and thought this is a second booking coming up, but when it didn't happen we had to get on with the game.
"Both our wingers are full of speed. They can get at the full-backs, get past them and get balls in the box. It gives us something a little bit different."
Higginbotham started his career at United but left in 2000 after making a handful of appearances for Sir Alex Ferguson's side.
And he believes that despite the upheaval around the club in the last week that they again showed they have what it takes to win the Barclays Premier League when Javier Hernandez grabbed his second of the game with four minutes left to seal victory.
He said: "United are a great team and are always going to be there or thereabouts in the Premier League.
"They showed their skill and class. When we got it back to 1-1, we got a little bit on top, but there were still going to be chances.
"They have paid big money for players who can put the ball in the back of the net. They have done that here, but it was a disappointing goal.
"To concede in the way we did and at that point of the game was very frustrating."