Two Steven Gerrard penalties helped Liverpool to a crushing 3-0 victory at bitter rivals Manchester United on Sunday to leave them breathing down the necks of Premier League leaders Chelsea.
Gerrard's strikes either side of halftime put the visitors in control and Luis Suarez sealed only Liverpool's second win at Old Trafford in nearly 10 years with a well-taken third.
Skipper Gerrard could have completed a rare hat-trick of spot kicks but struck the foot of the post after Nemanja Vidic was red-carded for tripping Daniel Sturridge shortly before Suarez completed the rout.
With nine matches remaining to Chelsea's eight, Liverpool's run of five consecutive league wins has left them four points behind Jose Mourinho's side who were beaten 1-0 at Aston Villa on Saturday having had two men sent off.
Liverpool, seeking a first English title since 1990, could have won by an even bigger margin as they underlined the incredible turnaround in fortunes for English's football's two great north west rivals.
Manchester United 0 Liverpool 3 player ratings
Manchester United 0 Liverpool 3 player ratings
1/24 David de Gea 6/10
Nowhere near any of the three penalties. Slightly made amends with a late stop from Suarez from close range, but then beaten again minutes after
2/24 Rafael 5/10
Lucky to remain on the pitch for the second period after an ugly tackle on Gerrard and then handball for the first penalty. Offered little in attack, too
3/24 Phil Jones 4/10
Confused by the movement of Sturridge, who ran rings around him. Recklessly charged out like a bull in a china shop to concede the second penalty.
4/24 Nemanja Vidic 3/10
Unlucky for second yellow for lunge at Sturridge, but, like most of his team-mates, looked well off the pace. His Italian retirement home awaits
5/24 Patrice Evra 4.10
Endured a painful afternoon. Could not cope with the pace of Sterling and Sturridge – and had to deal with pair on his own with little help from Mata
6/24 Juan Mata 4/10
Alienated on the wing, and did not track back to help Evra at all, constantly leaving space for Liverpool to exploit – which they did.
7/24 Marouane Fellaini 3/10
Had some success with interceptions early on, but, like Carrick alongside him, was run ragged as the game wore on. Another lacklustre display.
8/24 Michael Carrick 4/10
Pulled apart by the movement of Liverpool’s midfield. Could have conceded a fourth penalty with clumsy foul on Sturridge late on as well.
9/24 Adnan Januzaj 5/10
A couple of bursts forward made it look like he could provide the spark for United, but grew more and more anonymous, and timid.
10/24 Wayne Rooney 6/10
Had United's only real chance, when his powerful effort was saved by Mignolet.
11/24 Robin van Persie 5/10
Cut a frustrated figure. Struggled to get in the game and kept turning away from goal into blind alleys whenever he got a sniff of the ball.
12/24 Best of the bench: Danny Welbeck 4/10
Replaced the ineffective Januzaj with 15 minutes remaining, and although a willing runner, he chased shadows like his demoralised team-mates.
13/24 Simon Mignolet 7/10
Impressive stop from Rooney’s driven effort was the only time he was called upon. Then just watched the masterclass like everyone else
14/24 Glen Johnson 7/10
The right-back put in a solid shift, although was hardly in the thick of it such was United’s tame attacking. Did everything that was asked of him well
15/24 Martin Skrtel 7/10
The busier of Liverpool’s centre-back pairing, sticking close to Van Persie. But he struggled at times when Rooney decided to power into the box.
16/24 Daniel Agger 7/10
Beaten too easily by some early breaks from Rooney, but the Danish defender was comfortable for the majority of the match.
17/24 Jon Flanagan 7/10
Clattered about early on in the match but did not give Januzaj or Rafael any joy at all in a no-nonsense performance from the 21-year-old.
18/24 Steven Gerrard 9/10
Ended the match with a nose bleed as Liverpool entered nose-bleed territory in deserved fashion. A quite brilliant performance from the captain
19/24 Joe Allen 8/10
Usual great distribution of the ball, but was also happy to do the dirty work, putting in important blocks to launch his team on the attack.
20/24 Jordan Henderson 8/10
Sharp as a tack and always on the move. Has added incisiveness to his game this season. Something Carrick and Fellaini sorely lacked.
21/24 Raheem Sterling 7/10
Looked to get involved in every Liverpool attack, buzzing around the pitch. Neat and tidy with his passing in a more central midfield position
22/24 Luis Suarez 8/10
Put the icing on the cake with astute finish past De Gea in the final stages. Dropped a little bit deeper for maximum impact and terrorised poor Jones.
23/24 Daniel Sturridge 8/10
His pace and movement constantly troubled the United defence but was wasteful in front of goal. Unfair tumble to win the third penalty.
24/24 Philippe Coutinho 7/10
Came on for Sterling with 18 minutes remaining and nearly helped himself to a goal in closing stages but dragged a long-range effort wide.
They ended last season 28 points behind champions United, who managed one shot on target on Sunday, but are now 14 clear of David Moyes' side who now look almost certain to finish outside the Premier League's top four for the first time.
"I got a bit cocky with the third penalty," Gerrard told Sky Sports. "I've come here many times and been played off the park and but to come here and dominate like we did, we're even a bit upset we didn't get more goals.
"I don't think their defence has ever had a more difficult 90 minutes."
Gerrard's first penalty after 33 minutes followed a deliberate handball by Rafael that could have earned the defender a second yellow card, while his second shortly after the break was for a clumsy Phil Jones challenge on Joe Allen.
United's day went from bad to worse when Vidic sent Sturridge sprawling in the area with a lunging tackle and though Gerrard could not beat David de Gea again Suarez's neat finish after 84 minutes capped a dazzling Liverpool display.
Vidic, who is joining Inter Milan at the end of the season, now has four red cards against Liverpool in his United career, more than any other player against one opponent in the history of the Premier League.
United's ninth defeat of the season, a new record for the club in the Premier League, left them languishing in seventh place with 48 points, 11 adrift of fourth-placed Arsenal who are in action later on Sunday at London rivals Tottenham Hotspur.Reuse content