When Manchester City and Everton first locked horns 48 hours before the last Christmas Day of the 19th century, football was a very different game.
There were no penalty areas – referees had to judge on the fly whether an offence had taken place within 12 yards of the goal – and goalkeepers were not a unique breed on the pitch, wearing the same coloured kit as their colleagues with varied rules around handling.
The modern iteration of the sport shares few similarities with its predecessor from the Victorian era. As the former City centre-forward Denis Law once said: “The only thing that has never changed in the history of the game is the shape of the ball.” Yet, the enduring slate of matches between City and Everton – a fixture which has graced every decade since the 1890s – can perhaps be added to Law’s brief list.
To understand the gravity of Everton’s 2-0 reverse against Manchester City in April 1905, it’s worth spooling the tape back five months. The Toffees held a commanding 3-1 lead over Arsenal in the capital before the match was called off with minutes remaining due to excessive fog.
The replay was scheduled for just 24 hours after Everton met City in east Manchester. With just three games of the campaign remaining, Everton led the top flight, narrowly above Newcastle United and City. However, the demand of playing those last three matches in the space of four days proved too much for the Toffees, who lost to City and Arsenal, while ceding the title to Newcastle.
Everton still managed to finish above City by a point but a far more tangible consolation would arrive the following year.
Two days after losing 4-1 to Arsenal in temperatures which the Manchester Guardian claimed to be 120°F – the equivalent of 49°C – City’s roasted squad had not quite recovered.
Five players had suffered from heat stroke against the Gunners and City certainly played as though they had half their outfielders missing at Goodison Park. Alex ‘Sandy’ Young claimed four of the hosts’ glut in what remains Everton’s largest-ever top-flight victory.
Manchester United‘s legendary manager Matt Busby was in…