Liverpool have underlined their new-found superiority over Manchester United with a humbling 3-0 victory over its great rival, virtually ending the beleaguered champions’ chances of qualifying for the Champions League.
On the darkest day of David Moyes’ tumultuous first season at Old Trafford, United were outclassed as Steven Gerrard converted two penalties, missed a third, and Luis Suarez completed the crushing win with his 25th goal of the campaign.
Liverpool moved up to second and within four points of leader Chelsea – with a game in hand, and can realistically aim to win a first league title since 1990.
“To come here and dominate from start to finish, we’re still going away slightly disappointed that we didn’t score more goals,” said Gerrard, whose penalties came in the 34th and 46th minutes.
“We’ve showed today that we are genuine contenders and we are going to fight to the end for this.”
While Liverpool capitalised on Chelsea’s 1-0 defeat at Aston Villa on Saturday with another effervescent attacking display, United couldn’t be at a lower ebb after being humiliated in arguably the biggest match in English football, which was watched by Argentina great Diego Maradona.
Their defending was shambolic and reckless – there could have been more than three penalties awarded – and Nemanja Vidic was sent off for his second booking in the lead-up to the third spot kick that Gerrard struck against the post in the 78th.
Moyes has a massive job to pick his team up in time for Wednesday, when United tries to overturn a 2-0 first-leg deficit against Olympiakos in the Champions League’s last 16.
That is their final shot at silverware.
“It’s a nightmare,” United striker Wayne Rooney said on Sunday after the team’s fifth home defeat in the league.
“It’s one of the worst days I’ve ever had in football.”
Liverpool had lost on its previous six visits to Old Trafford and seemingly had an inferiority complex whenever it came to the home of its biggest foe.
Brendan Rodgers’ men were brighter and more courageous on the ball, played at a quicker tempo and were more incisive going forward.