There was a rather aching reflection this week from David Moyes who, in the course of explaining that Liverpool did not come calling for him two summers ago, said that he would have "loved to inherit" Steven Gerrard. A caveat followed quickly and diplomatically, when he named a few of his own players who were "the heartbeat for us" but there has been no one quite like this. The irony of Gerrard scoring the hat-trick which destroyed Moyes's hopes of marking a decade at Everton today by finally "grasping" at the club who have eclipsed him, as he has put it, is that he did not cost a penny of those millions which Moyes has always said hands Liverpool an unfair advantage.
The Everton manager is still without a win at Anfield after 11 visits and the chant from the Anfield Road end – "10 years" and winning what might be politely called "f-all" – would have hurt. Gerrard said of Moyes's decade in his programme notes that "he'll want to mark the occasion with a victory. That's something we have no intention of letting them do." Even by his own standards, marking a 400th Premier League appearance with the first hat-trick in a Merseyside derby since Ian Rush's four goals at Goodison, in Kenny Dalglish's pomp 30 years ago, was "Roy of the Rovers" stuff.
It is those good old days which Dalglish wants to restore now, though if the 186th Merseyside league derby revealed one thing then it was how bleak the future landscape would look without Gerrard – not at his physical peak, aged 31 – and Suarez, the creator of all three of last night's goals, who must decide in a few months whether the trouble of this season justifies another one on Merseyside.
Dalglish was reminded last night why all that Suarez trouble was worth it. The equations are not as simple as when he was scoring 81 goals in 110 Dutch league matches for Ajax because he is working in more areas of the pitch. Too many areas. Dalglish, whose club's other acquisitions again didn't burn with promise last night, needs to find others to help. The club are currently advertising their "new summer collection" but look in need of a collection of midfielders when the buying time starts. Gerrard has seen too many false dawns to allow a derby win, even this one, to obscure the gulf between Liverpool and the best. "We're going from one extreme to the other at the moment and we need to find a level of consistency," he reflected late last night.
The display did not bear out the Kop banner which proclaimed "Liverpool FC: the benchmark", though let nothing take away from Dalglish's marvellous knowledge of what his club's people crave and his ability to deliver it. The Carling Cup was the insurance policy for the season and now, amid the first genuine mumblings of discontent about the 10 points separating Liverpool from fourth place, there was this. Dalglish hardly seemed bound to the dressing room with anxiety beforehand. He was strolling around the foyer distributing tickets to friends half an hour before kick off. If David Moyes's team selection, with Tim Cahill and Leon Osman on the bench amid six changes, suggested divided loyalties between this game and an FA Cup quarter final with Sunderland which awaits on Saturday, Dalglish's own revealed that this big week had been built entirely around last night.
There was a symbolism about the way Gerrard and Carragher, both left out for Saturday's dismal defeat at Sunderland, ran out on to the field of play a full five yards ahead of anyone else in red and it took just over five minutes for the captain to become the advancing presence from midfield without which Suarez has often looked isolated since Raul Meireles's departure to Chelsea. Gerrard raced to seize a ball which Suarez, his back to the goal, turned around the corner in the area. His low shot was saved sharply by Tim Howard and Jack Rodwell cleared before Jordan Henderson could take the rebound.
The sight of Victor Anichebe vanishing out of sight over an hoarding advertising outdoor pursuits – nudged on his way by Carragher – told you something about the fear of God with which Moyes has made ordinary players giants over a decade. But just as Everton had started to make their way into the game, Marouane Fellaini fatefully conceded possession to Dalglish's strong counter-attacking side. Stewart Downing and Jose Enrique ferried the ball to Suarez whose pass was deflected off Gerrard's knee into the path of Martin Kelly. He had two cracks on goal before the ball fell back to Gerrard, to arc over Howard from 15 yards out.
Gerrard's second illustrated the same telepathy with Suarez who raced after Jordan Henderson's ball into the right channel, and rounded Sylvain Distin on the byline before Gerrard virtually removed it from his boot to drive home. Moyes tore his side up, introducing three substitutes on the hour, though one of them – Royston Drenthe – slipped to let Gerrard race away, exchange passes with Suarez, and complete the hat-trick. "I'm not educated enough to add what anyone else has said about Steve," Dalglish concluded late last night. But his football wisdom will tell him that he needs Gerrard and Suarez to hang around and finish what they have started.
Liverpool Kuyt (Henderson, 72).
Everton Jelavic (Anichebe, 61), Drenthe (Coleman, 61), Osman (Straqualursi, 61).
Everton Pienaar, Baines, Drenthe.
Man of the match Gerrard
Match rating 8/10
Referee P Dowd (Staffordshire)