It was put to Roberto Mancini that the Stoke City manager, Tony Pulis, who was in the stands at Goodison Park, must have been rubbing his hands after watching Manchester City fold under Everton's second-half onslaught, as he plots his team's approach to the FA Cup final next Saturday.
"Do you think so? I'm happy with that," the Italian countered, bristling at the suggestion. Mancini looked rattled after this defeat, although his mood will have lifted in the evening when Tottenham Hotspur could move only a point closer to his team. Provided they do not lose against Spurs at Eastlands tomorrow, City will all but secure a Champions League place and can focus on the danger Stoke's physical style may pose at Wembley.
Mancini's players are no lightweights but at Goodison they lacked the controlled aggression required to turn a one-sided first half into a convincing victory. Instead they mirror their manager's tetchy side; Mancini's frustration boiled over in an altercation with Phil Neville at the end, when he would have been better off keeping Aleksander Kolarov and Seamus Coleman apart following Everton's fourth straight victory against City.
"After the way we played the first half it was incredible how we played the second very soft and too wide," Mancini said. "It is not easy to come here and dominate the game against Everton. We did that for 45 minutes and had five chances to score. We need to improve, that is for sure."
In reality, Pulis, and the Spurs manager, Harry Redknapp, will spend more time worrying about City's attacking capabilities. David Silva gave a masterclass and orchestrated most of City's bright attacking play, including the pass he flicked into Yaya Touré's path for the opening goal. Silva also teed up Patrick Vieira with a stunning piece of skill and went close himself, pulling his shot across Tim Howard's goal.
"They could have been out of sight at half-time," the Everton manager, David Moyes, conceded. "Even after that Touré had a chance when he went through." Howard saved on that occasion. After that, Everton found the intensity that had been lacking in the first period and, with Jermaine Beckford coming on to support the willing Victor Anichebe, began to press. But it was the introduction of Tim Cahill for the final half-hour that was the game changer.
The Australian, who had scored in three of his previous four games against City, is only just back from injury but sparked a frenzied effort from Everton, who equalised within a minute of his introduction. Mikel Arteta's free-kick was met by Sylvain Distin, who got above Vincent Kompany to score against his old team. Kompany was also at fault when Osman beat him in the air from Neville's cross for the winner.
"It's a completely different team and club from when I was there, but it's still a bit special," said Distin, who left for Portsmouth in 2007. "We had a few words from the manager at half-time, which woke us up, and we all knew we had to do much better."
Scorers: Everton Distin 65, Osman 72. Manchester City Y Touré 28.
Subs: Everton Beckford 7 (Hibbert, h-t), Cahill 7 (Rodwell, 64), Coleman (Anichebe, 86). Man City A Johnson (Vieira, 78), Balotelli (Zabaleta 81), Jo (De Jong, 89). Booked: Everton Neville, Osman, Rodwell, Coleman. Man City Kompany, Kolarov. Man of the match Silva. Match rating 8/10. Possession: Everton 59% Man City 41%. Attempts on target: Everton 6 Man City 7. Referee P Dowd (Staffs). Att 37,351.