Everton made a mockery of the Premier League table as they beat Manchester United 3-0 in fine style at Goodison Park on Sunday — their third straight home win over the Red Devils in as many seasons.
Had United won on Merseyside, they would have climbed into second place.
But this defeat, their seventh league reverse of the season, left Louis van Gaal’s side fourth in the table with four matches to play as goals from James McCarthy, John Stones and Kevin Mirallas saw Everton rise into 10th place.
Only the top three teams in the Premier League at the end of the season gain direct entry into the first round of the Champions League, with the side finishing fourth facing the unwanted prospect of a qualifying round.
It took Everton, who kicked-off 24 points behind United, just five minutes to open the scoring in front of their own fans as McCarthy surged between flimsy challenges from Paddy McNair and Daley Blind before his low shot beat United goalkeeper David de Gea.
Everton doubled their lead 10 minutes before half-time when Stones powered in a header from a corner that beat both de Gea and Ashley Young, stationed on the line.
The second half saw Belgium international Mirallas secure a fifth win in six league games for Roberto Martinez’s Everton side.
But there was a touch of controversy regarding his 74th minute goal against a United team featuring former Everton favourites Wayne Rooney and Marouane Fellaini.
Ross Barkley’s ball forward appeared to be aimed at the offside Romelu Lukaku.
But Lukaku opted out of receiving the ball and, with United waiting for a flag that never came, the onside Mirallas raced beyond Lukaku and swept the ball in, with referee Andre Marriner letting the goal stand.
Table-toppers Chelsea will move one step closer to the Premier League title if they win away to third-placed London rivals Arsenal, currently level on points with United later on Sunday.
Victories at the Emirates Stadium and against Leicester City on Wednesday will be enough to see Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea side crowned champions of England for the first time since 2010.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger will hope it’s a case of ’13th time lucky’ as has yet to enjoy a victory over Mourinho in 12 previous attempts. – Agence France-Presse