Everton revival turns page on chapter with storied rivals Manchester City
When Farhad Moshiri ploughed £85 million into Everton last year, he probably didn't realise that he was in the process of striking just one more parallel between the Merseysiders and Manchester City.
City, whose own takeover shook the foundations of football in 2008, have a great deal in common with their near neighbours from the city of Liverpool. It isn't just the colour of the shirts and those of their main rivals that count, but that does give a clue to the mutual trauma the clubs have experienced in modern times.
There has always been a kind of thinly stretched affinity between City supporters and the Blues of Merseyside, despite the feelings of competitive edge engendered by the two northern industrial bulwarks of Manchester and Liverpool.
Living in the shadows of the local behemoth is a sad fate that befell both clubs from the late '60s onward. A morose sense of humour, born out of myriad wretched disappointments, has become a feature of the clubs' support. As Liverpool and United grew steadily into all-consuming megaliths, followers of City and Everton were required to develop thick skins.
The curious thing about the oft-used tag for Everton as one of the last bastions of reality, a "proper football club," was that this was precisely what was preventing them from joining the ranks of the Premier League's big hitters.
The wonderful, traditional lines of their atmospheric if uncomfortable stadium, the church in the corner, the Z Cars theme that still blasts on match days and the girls with baskets of toffees all make it a unique place.
All of these quintessential features had been holding Everton back from joining Chelsea and City as new contenders for the game's big prizes. With this summer's outlay of more than £130 million, Everton have cast aside their bridesmaid's image and recouped most of it with the single sale of Romelu Lukaku.
The sensible transfer policy, the marvellously steadfast housekeeping that everyone applauded from a safe distance seem now to be a thing of the past. Everton were stuck in the same time warp as pre-takeover City. Their cosmic struggle with this conundrum appears now to be behind them, and they need look no further than the Etihad to see what kind of future could face them.
Since the decade between 1980 and 1990, when local football rivalries wore the badges of hate and violence, things have cooled, mellowed and fizzled out. A visit from Everton in recent times has been held in little more esteem than one from Sunderland or Hull. There is little or no edge, despite an attempt on their part at a kind of simmering resentment that City had landed royally on their feet while Everton had been knocked to their knees.
All Everton fans had left was to mock City for their newly acquired wealth and become uncomfortable about the removal of the likes of Joleon Lescott from their defence. Now there is no need to occupy the high moral ground of those who have not changed, for Everton are at last changing with the times too.
It seemed to be this outrage at what City had become that stung Everton under David Moyes into producing some of their best football against City. In what was a shallow sea of opportunity, Everton managed to swim against the tide: backs to the wall, them against us, the disenfranchised versus the giddy rich, dirty knees against guffawing idiots with double-barrelled surnames. It worked well for a while under Moyes' strict stewardship but fell apart under his successor, Roberto Martinez, whose penchant for silky football and gentle passing played right into City's hands.
What used to work with mechanical efficiency -- under Roberto Mancini, City had the utmost difficulty getting anything out of Everton at all -- has gradually begun to work less efficiently. The two epic legs of the 2015 League Cup semifinals illustrated that City were once again getting the upper hand. After 12 City defeats in 18 matches played between the clubs (2003-12), things began to balance a little, with four City wins out of five.
Last season, however, saw a return to City's traditional problems: a 4-0 tanning at Goodison was one of Pep Guardiola's side's most disappointing performances of the season. It was the corresponding fixture to this weekend's game that really opened eyes, however, with Everton holding out for a 1-1 draw despite being under massive pressure for almost the entire game. Goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg even saved two City penalties that day, with Lukaku netting the away side's goal.
Although the two sides do not yet start on a totally even keel, it seems only a matter of time before Everton's age-old rivalry with City begins a new and exciting chapter at the top of English football's hierarchy.
Simon is one of ESPN FC's Manchester City bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @bifana_bifana.