Everton did Merseyside neighbours Liverpool a favour on Sunday afternoon by beating Manchester United 3-0 at Goodison Park.
The result, which came courtesy of first-half goals from James McCarthy, John Stones and Kevin Mirallas, keeps Liverpool’s slim hopes of a top-four finish alive.
Liverpool stuttered to a disappointing 0-0 draw at West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, but United’s loss at Everton means that Brendan Rodgers’ side are still just seven points behind the Red Devils.
United have played a match more than Liverpool, but Louis van Gaal’s men do have a far superior goal difference.
In short, Liverpool must beat Hull City in their game in hand on Tuesday night and then claim five points more than United do in their final four games.
United should qualify for the Champions League quite comfortably, but that will not be the case is they defend for the rest of the season like they did at Goodison.
The visitors dominated possession, but they were undone by a swift counter-attack on five minutes, when McCarthy pounced to fire Everton in front.
Stones scored his first senior goal for Everton 30 minutes later, heading home from a corner, despite the efforts of Ashley Young on the far post.
The second half was a fairly scrappy affair, although Everton deserve credit for frustrating United with some resolute defending.
However, United’s defending was far from resolute and their naivety was punished again on 74 minutes, when multiple players stood still in anticipation of Romelu Lukaku being flagged offside. Lukaku did not touch the ball though. Instead, he opted to leave it for Mirallas, who finished the match as a contest.
United have now lost at Everton three seasons in a row.