It was March 2010 when Everton last went to Eastlands, and came away with an excellent 2-0 victory, courtesy of goals from Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta and a superb all-round team performance, made even sweeter as the Toffees completed a league double over the side that poached Joleon Lescott from Goodison Park in summer 2009. The England defender missed both meetings with his former club through injury but that did not lessen the enjoyment Evertonians felt in getting one over the centre-back’s new employers, adding spice to a rivalry that, in the past, was little more than the eternal Liverpool/Manchester enmity.
The billions pumped into Manchester City since 2008 have moved Roberto Mancini’s team further up the most-hated list of many football fans, be it through a combination of jealousy, City’s status as a symbol of football’s financial ills or, in Everton’s case, their club’s best players being tempted away by the petrodollars on offer after an undignified chase – or what Moyes referred to as City’s ‘disgusting’ actions, pursuing Lescott throughout 2009 until finally getting their man in August. In truth, the £24m City parted with to take Lescott to Manchester proved welcome to Everton’s coffers yet that barely softened the blow of losing the player. But before City became the Premier League’s nouveau riche they were, in many ways, Everton’s soul mates.
Both teams represent disadvantaged North West cities, cities they are forced to share with more glamorous and successful red-shirted cousins. The presence of the bigger names has often obscured the respective achievements of City and Everton – two leagues and four FA Cups for City and nine and five for Everton – while attracting more international fans, leaving those in blue to be considered the team of the people of the city, however inaccurate that might be. The links between the two are more than superficial – two of Everton’s past managers, the most successful in history, Howard Kendall, and the last to win a trophy, Joe Royle, also stood in the Maine Road dugout.
Those shared experiences are, however, gradually becoming a dim and distant memory. As City wage war on the top of the Premier League, powered by Sheikh Mansour, Everton continue to scrimp and save to provide their manager with the funds needed to even think about European qualification, a target they are falling short of this season – three points from Monday’s game would be enough to move City top of the league, while the same three points would not even move Everton into the league’s top half. City’s money does not guarantee anything, as Everton proved twice last season, but how long Moyes can continue upsetting the odds is a question that gets more pressing with every multimillion pound star City add to their ranks.