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After losing just twice in the Premier League all season the former striker says the club is more than a match for the likes of Liverpool and Tottenham, if not better

EXCLUSIVE
By Alex Young

Everton deserve to be considered as a serious contender for a top-four finish, according to former striker Graeme Sharp.

The Toffees have thrived under new manager Roberto Martinez, losing just once in their last 17 Premier League games, and head to Anfield to face fourth-placed Liverpool on Tuesday night.

Everton sit just one point adrift of their rivals for a Champions League qualification place, and five ahead of Manchester United, and Sharp feels it is unfair to ignore the threat of the Goodison Park outfit.

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"We are not mentioned in that category, which I find disrespectful, but, player for player, we are a match for those teams, if not better," he told Goal.

"We are playing really, really well. But, Tottenham are a strong candidate under their new manager and you can never rule out Manchester United.

"It would be dangerous to rule United out. You can never rule them out. Once Van Persie and Rooney are back then they will have a cutting edge. It will be difficult for United but things change very quickly."

Sharp, who played 447 times for Everton, is surprised by the impact Martinez has had at the club - particularly on youngster Ross Barkley - but was quick to commend the job of ex-manager David Moyes.

He continued: "They are going very well with the new manager coming in. I thought it was going to be a difficult transition but he seems to have settled very quickly.

"The type of football we are playing is top draw and the results have been excellent. He's changed the way we were playing. Ross Barkley has been given more freedom and we've seen the improvement.

"Roberto inherited a very good squad but he's added to it. The signings before the season - the likes of Gareth Barry, James McCarthy and Romelu Lukaku - were fantastic."

Sharp has sympathy for Moyes - noting mistakes in Manchester United's player recruitment during the summer - and says the ageing squad he had to freshen up at Everton is similar to that at Old Trafford.

"It is a very difficult job," he said. "When Moyes took over at Everton, Moyes inherited an old squad and gradually lowered the age. He will look at the likes of Giggs and do the same.

"Moyes wasn't helped with the resignation of chief executive David Gill so when he joined the club he didn't have a senior figure to rely on to get deals done.

"There were mistakes made but David Moyes is the right man for the job. The squad just needs freshening up."

Graeme Sharp was speaking at a Barclays event at which James Ditchfield, a volunteer coach for Everton in the Community's award-winning Disability Programme, was rewarded for his efforts with 25 tickets for an upcoming Toffees fixture.

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