Everton fell to a 4-0 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford on Wayne Rooney’s return to his former club.
Antonio Valencia’s thunderbolt inside four minutes dealt the Blues an early blow, but Rooney went close to levelling before Gylfi Sigurdsson had an effort ruled out for offside just before the half-time interval.
Three goals in the final seven minutes - from Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Romelu Lukaku and Anthony Martial - consigned the Toffees to a third consecutive defeat in the Premier League.
Everton went into the match with five alterations to the side that was defeated on Italian soil by Atalanta three days earlier. Tom Davies was restored to the starting line-up, meaning that, with Rooney also included in the team, the Blues reached the milestone of naming an Academy graduate in the matchday squad for 1,000 consecutive competitive games.
It was a switch to three-at-the-back, too - a system that worked well when Everton last visited Manchester a month earlier for the 1-1 draw at City. “I think we need [to play with] a little bit more of a compact team - you know if you play United, you need that to get a result,” was manager Ronald Koeman’s reasoning.
United’s opener could not be attributed to loose defending from the Toffees, however. A pass across the edge of the penalty box from Nemanja Matic was sized up by Valencia, who could not have caught his first-time volley any crisper. The ball arrowed into the top corner of the Stretford End net, past Jordan Pickford’s valiant dive.
It took Everton the best part of a quarter of an hour to gain their momentum after conceding so early.
Understandably, much of the pre-match talk had surrounded Rooney and his first return to the club for whom he had scored 253 goals. The former England striker was a yard or so away from netting against the Old Trafford outfit on 20 minutes when he pushed a shot narrowly past the post following Cuco Martina’s cut-back.
Despite Everton’s growing presence in the contest, former Blue Lukaku spurned a golden chance to double the hosts’ lead midway through the opening half. The Belgian found himself racing in on goal after Mkhitaryan’s slide-rule pass, only to see his side-footed effort placed wide from a position where he should have at least worked Pickford.
Everton, now playing with much more verve, then retaliated with another attack of their own. The move ended with Sigurdsson putting the ball into the Manchester United net - but it was instantly ruled out by referee Andre Marriner, after Davies had strayed into an offside position in the build-up, when his diving header had been well-saved by David De Gea.
United, as expected, enjoyed the majority of possession in the opening half and before the interval there was another sight of goal for Lukaku, who was quickly snuffed out by a combination of Phil Jagielka and Pickford.
Everton reappeared for the second half on the front foot and within a minute of the restart De Gea beat away an effort from Rooney, who had been the Blues’ top performer to that point. He surged into the box, lost possession, then regained it before working the Spain goalkeeper with a left-footed shot from an acute angle.
De Gea was needed to make another smart stop on the hour mark, this time from Sigurdsson. The Icelander barged into the penalty area, rode a couple of challenges and then guided a shot straight keeper from another promising position. Sigurdsson shook his head in the aftermath, knowing it was a good chance to restore parity.
Trailing by just the solitary goal, Everton were still very much in the game. Koeman’s side were, however, saved by the post when Juan Mata whipped a 20-yard free-kick over the wall. There was also a let-off when substitute Jesse Lingard blazed over from 15 yards out.
Sandro Ramirez entered the mix midway through the second half, and he was followed onto the pitch by Dominic Calvert-Lewin as Blues, continuing to chase the game, added extra forward options.
It made for an open, end-to-end conclusion to the contest as both teams pressed forward.
Rooney made way with eight minutes remaining and he received a standing ovation from all four sides of Old Trafford.
But as the Blues continued to press for an equaliser, with Kevin Mirallas also thrown on by Koeman, the Red Devils doubled their lead when Lukaku found Mkhitaryan in the area and the Armenia international made no mistake in slotting home.
Two more late goals followed, with Lukaku converting from six yards after seeing his initial free-kick blocked, before Martial scored from the penalty spot after Schneiderlin was adjudged to have handled in the area.
Attentions now turn to the Carabao Cup, with a home game against Championship outfit Sunderland at Goodison Park on Wednesday evening.