On a weekend where their city rivals Manchester City and Liverpool will face off in a game that will likely decide the fate of the Premier League title, Manchester United and Everton faced off on Saturday in a game that reflected the gulf in quality between the sides in both cities.
Everton have been in atrocious form in recent weeks and, in all honesty, were not impressive on Saturday. The fact that Manchester United managed to make them look decent is a mark of just how poor both sides are in comparison to Liverpool and City.
Manchester United woeful in defeat to Everton
Liverpool and Manchester City continue to push each other to extraordinary new heights. This Sunday they will face off in the first genuine late season "title decider" game the Premier League has seen in years. They are both likely to finish on 90+ points, and there is every chance they will face each other in May's Champions League final.
Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola have transformed the two clubs into the two biggest and best teams in European football. Regardless of the means by which City have achieved that, there is no denying that that is now their stature.
Premier League points across the last four seasons:
🔵 Man City: 338
🔴 Liverpool: 337
Changed the game ⚔️ pic.twitter.com/d5NR8XgMde
— ESPN UK (@ESPNUK) April 8, 2022
Flip to the other side of both Merseyside and Mancunia, and the picture is very different. By a quirk of the fixture list, Everton and Manchester United also faced off this weekend, with the clash at Goodison Park taking place on Saturday afternoon.
Everton entered the game needing a win to help them pull themselves out of the mire of a relegation battle. Manchester United entered the game needing a win to help keep themselves in the battle for Champions League football.
The game was severely lacking in quality, with the only goal coming from Anthony Gordon's shot deflecting off Harry Maguire. In all honesty, not a single outfield Manchester United player comes to mind as a good performance over the 90 minutes.
To compound their woes, Everton themselves were also extremely poor, despite their 1-0 win. They surely could scarcely believe how easy it was for them to tear apart one of the most expensive squads in the history of English football.
This is an Everton team that had lost 17 of their previous 22 games, and their players were strolling through the Manchester United defence, with Richarlison even juggling the ball on his head at one point.
The loss all but confirms that United will not be playing Champions League football next season. And, in fairness, nothing they have offered to the Premier League over the past months would suggest that they deserve it.
Everton are by no means safe from relegation, despite the massive win at Goodison. Their collapse against their relegation-threatened rivals Burnley in midweek was calamitous, and they still need to take some massive wins to stay up.
Just look what it means to Everton 👊
A massive win when they needed it most, Goodison Park erupts at the final whistle! pic.twitter.com/vItLxsUmvi
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) April 9, 2022
With City and Liverpool also set to face each other in the FA Cup semi-final next week, there is the potential they will face off for the three biggest trophies available to them over the course of the next month and a half.
Meanwhile, their city rivals are scrapping over European places and fighting to stay in the top division.
The games between the four teams this season only confirm how big the gap is. Manchester United fell to an astonishing 5-0 home defeat to Liverpool, and were anonymous in two heavy defeats to Manchester City. Everton have also lost to both sides this season. Their 4-1 defeat to Liverpool at Goodison saw the home fans booing the side within 20 minutes, and means they have only beaten Liverpool once in the past 12 years.
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) October 24, 2021
When Sheikh Mansour and the Abu Dhabi Group arrived at Manchester City in 2008, United were English and European champions, and Everton had just finished fifth in the league, confirming a UEFA Cup place.
Meanwhile, City had just finished in ninth place and been hammered 8-1 by Middlesbrough on the final day of the 2007-08 season. Liverpool were comfortable in the top four, but weren't contending for titles, and would slip even further by the time Jurgen Klopp arrived to take over in 2015.
Since the arrival of Guardiola at Manchester City in 2016, the Citizens have won three Premier League titles, four league cups, an FA Cup, and have a Champions League final appearance to their name. Klopp has brought the Premier League and Champions League to Anfield, as well as keeping them in contention to finish this season with four trophies.
For Manchester United and Everton, the success and glory the past few seasons have brought to their bitter enemies will be painful. There is no guarantee the gulf in class will not widen in the coming years.
Everton may well be playing Championship football next season. It's hard to see Manchester United going anywhere any time soon with the attitudes within the squad clearly so poor, and it is unlikely they will hold on to the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo without Champions League football on offer for next season.
On a weekend when the cities of Manchester and Liverpool will be the focus of the footballing world for a "clash of the titans" showdown on Sunday, the curtain raiser of the weekend on the blue side of Merseyside showed just how far away United and Everton are from City and Liverpool.