Manchester United will not be able to bridge the 12 point gap to Arsenal with their current squad, says Alan Smith.
David Moyes' side fell to a 1-0 home defeat to Everton on Wednesday night, which was the first time Moyes' former club had won at Old Trafford in 21 attempts.
Bryan Oviedo's 86th-minute winner left United a dozen points off the pace at the top of the Premier League and Sky Sports expert Alan Smith told Match Choice he thinks the reigning champions' squad is lacking the strength and depth in midfield to retain their crown.
"With the squad that United have got it is too much," he said.
"Whether they can do anything in January, whether Moyes can improve matters, I don't know. But as things stand I certainly don't think they're as well equipped as Chelsea, Manchester City and maybe even Arsenal.
"Once again United's lack of strength and quality in midfield was exposed.
"If you look at Everton, they've got Gareth Barry, Ross Barkley, Steven Pienaar and James McCarthy - and all of those lads would improve Manchester United's midfield.
"United had Marouane Fellaini - who for me isn't an orthodox central midfielder - next to 40-year-old Ryan Giggs and that just shows you what David Moyes is having to deal with at the moment and I'm sure he'll be desperate in January to get some quality in, if he could, in that area of the pitch.
"Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie can win a match on their own but without Van Persie tonight Rooney couldn't quite manage it.
"That midfield will let Moyes down time and time again against these competitors."
Smith also hailed Everton's style under new manager Roberto Martinez, who took over from Moyes in the summer and came out victorious at Old Trafford on his first trip, something Moyes couldn't manage in eleven seasons with the Toffees.
"Roberto Martinez refereed to it afterwards and said it was a mental block they had to overcome. I suppose he means going to somewhere like Old Trafford, one of the power houses and get a win but it's how they got it as well," said the former Arsenal man.
"The freedom that they showed, they poured forward on the break, they got men forward in numbers and were good value for the win as well.
"Everton were superb in the first-half and then they had to ride the storm in the second and rode their luck at times, but then they came back at them; Romelu Lukaku gave Nemanja Vidic a terrible time with his power and his pace.
"Bryan Oviedo coming in for Leighton Baines has done really well the last couple of games.
"It was an all-round complete performance from Everton and you could say that Martinez has improved that side from the David Moyes era.
"When you think that they've beaten Chelsea and had some fantastic other results, including this one at Old Trafford, they're coming up against the best and showing exactly what they do and obviously there's been a radical change in style.
"It wasn't long-ball football under David Moyes but there's certainly more of an emphasis on passing under Martinez and the players that have been there a number of years are having to adjust to that.
"Of course Lukaku has made a huge difference up front, he's only on loan and I'm sure they'd love to take him permanently but so would a few clubs as well."