Everton continued their fine of form with a comprehensive victory over Manchester United on Sunday; the third time in succession they have beaten the Red Devils at Goodison Park.
The three-nil victory meant the Toffees remain unbeaten at home in 2015, and with five wins and a draw from their last six league games has moved them into the top half after a dreadful start to the campaign.
Goals from James McCarthy and Kevin Mirallas either side of a header from John Stones condemned United to a second successive defeat, and it was the performance of the young centre-half in particular that caught the eye this weekend.
While John Terry put in another colossal display for Chelsea that afternoon, Stones put in an equally impressive display at the heart of the Everton back-four, yet again highlighting his potential and proving that England may finally have an adequate replacement for the former Three Lions captain.
Stones arrived at Everton for just £3m back in January 2013 after signing from Barnsley, and despite failing to appear in the first-team under former boss David Moyes, he has thrived since the arrival of Roberto Martinez.
And having formed a solid partnership with Phil Jagielka, he is enjoying a great run in the team displaying all the attributes of a top class defender that mean he will now be valued at a minimum of £20m despite being just 20-years-of-age.
Quick, strong and brave when it comes to tackling the youngster is also calm, comfortable and confident when in possession that make him a great asset to the way Martinez likes to play and makes him the perfect all-round centre-back.
His first goal capped off a wonderful performance on his 50th appearance for the club as he took care of the likes of Wayne Rooney, Marouane Fellaini and Radamel Falcao as he recorded his seventh clean sheet in the league this season.
His positioning and ability to read the game, as well as his dominance in aerial duels was hugely impressive given the form of United going to into Sunday’s clash, similar traits to the league’s best defender; Terry.
It’s no surprise Everton’s change in fortunes has coincided with the youngsters return from injury and with just two goals conceded in their last five games, there’s plenty of optimism heading into next season.
After losing Stones to a ankle injury, the Blues won just three of 12 games from October to New Year’s Day as an ageing Sylvain Distin and the unreliable Antolin Alcaraz struggled to sure up the defence.
But with Stones alongside Jagielka, Everton have proven to be a vastly improved outfit, and having already shown off his terrific leadership skills, he looks set for a bright future with both club and country; and a future captain in waiting.
The nature of the Premier League nowadays means unfortunately for Everton there will be plenty of top clubs keeping an eye on Stones and he will surely be the subject of transfer bids in the years to come.
But for now there is no doubt he is in the right place to continue his development into a world-class defender with a club that can provide him with the platform for regular first-team football in order to fulfil his potential.
With John Terry still turning out tremendous performances week after week, there’s no need for Jose Mourinho to fork out for a replacement just yet, but once the 34-year-old decides to call it a day, they may well be on the phone to Everton enquiring about his ready-made replacement.