MAN UNITED 0, LIVERPOOL 3
Manchester United can rarely have suffered such an embarrassing defeat against arch-rivals Liverpool.
They were fortunate not to lose by an even larger margin as their hopes of securing Champions League football next season surely disappeared.
United were comprehensively beaten to remain seventh in the table and 11 points adrift of a top-four place with only nine games remaining.
it was also an afternoon of the bizarre as United, who had not given away a penalty at Old Trafford since December 2011, conceded three as they slumped to a fifth home league defeat of the campaign.
Steven Gerrard converted two of them and failed to complete a hat trick as he struck the upright with his third which was later scored by Luis Suarez as United were second best throughout as Liverpool climbed to second spot, their highest place in the Premier league since 2009.
What was worrying for David Moyes was that his side went down with a whimper as they were devoid of attacking ideas, a surprise bearing in mind United’s line up included Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata and Adnan Januzaj to provide their cutting edge.
United’s manager conceded he had no arguments with the result saying: “We didn’t play well and Liverpool deserved their victory.
“Some decisions were correct, some were incorrect. It is difficult to explain, but the real turning point was the second penalty which made it difficult.”
Moyes added that his side failed to reach the standard required to beat Liverpool.
He continued: “We have to play better and make ourselves harder to beat and also create and take more opportunities. We have a lot to do to make these things happen.”
And there was a parting shot from Moyes who admitted the job of succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson was harder than he imagined it would be.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers described his side’s display as “outstanding” saying the most pleasing aspect was the way they dominated the game.
“We could have had more goals had our final pass been better, but it was still a good attacking performance,” he said.
After an opening in which there were feisty challenges by players from both sides, the breakthrough came in the 33rd minute when Liverpool won their first penalty following a handball by Rafael Da Silva following a flick by Suarez.
It was also the first penalty referee Mark Clattenburg had awarded to an opposing team while officiating in his 20th match involving United.
Gerrard stepped forward to send keeper David De Gea the wrong way for his 25th Premier League penalty and 10th goal of the campaign for Liverpool
Rooney had United’s only chance of the opening half in the 44th minute as he forced a fine save from Simon Mignolet while his follow up effort was blocked by Martin Skrtel.
And it was akin to lightning striking twice as Liverpool were awarded a second penalty of the match within 30 seconds of the restart, the first time United had conceded two spot kicks in a game in the Premier League era.
This time Phil Jones shoved Allen in the back and Gerrard doubled the lead from 12 yards with a kick low to the left of De Gea.
United were almost totally devoid of attacking ideas, though Mata had a shot blocked and van Persie headed wide when he ought to have found the net.
Moyes made a double change in the 76th minute replacing Marouaine Fellaini and Januzaj with Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley.
United’s afternoon got worse when they conceded a third penalty of the game following Nemanja Vidic’s challenge on Sturridge. It was Liverpool’s 10th spot kick of the season. United’s captain, booked moments earlier, was shown a second yellow card as he made an early departure.
Gerrard stepped forward again, but failed to complete his hat trick as his penalty struck the base of the upright before bouncing to safety.
Liverpool were denied a third goal by De Gea who pulled off a brilliant save to deny Suarez.
It was only a momentary escape as Suarez was not to be denied in the 84th minute when he beat the Spaniard after being put through by Sturridge’s slide-rule pass.