With the second-half restart delayed, bizarrely, while the referee, Martin Atkinson, had his microphone refitted, Manchester United’s players tried to stay on their toes by passing a ball about. The Kop responded with olés. It was a typically caustic judgment but one that felt entirely appropriate.
To borrow another line from the Liverpool support, their arch rivals hardly touched the ball during what was another chastening defeat. After the 5-0 Old Trafford shellacking back in October, this was another occasion that showed Liverpool to be on an altogether different plane.
United were a shambles, especially in the first half, their defeat inevitable from the moment that Luis Díaz gave Liverpool an early lead and they were on their knees when Mohamed Salah ran on to a pass from the substitute Diogo Jota to chip home the fourth in the final minutes.
Inspired by Thiago Alcântara, who appeared to be playing his own game for long spells, Liverpool got the result they needed to send them to the top of the Premier League table, at least until Manchester City play Brighton at home on Wednesday night. A draw would have taken them there but victory was never in doubt, the United support having arrived fearing the worst and seeing it all realised.
Salah got the second– his first goal in open play for 12 matches – with Sadio Mané adding the third and Liverpool can chalk off another one in their quest for the perfect finish which, they hope, will pressurise City into a slip.
It is now 11 consecutive league wins for Liverpool at Anfield but perhaps the more revealing statistic is the one that shows they have dropped only one result that has really mattered since 2 January – the 2-2 draw at City on the Sunday before last. The talk of the quadruple will not stop – not with them in such rare form, everything coming together for Jürgen Klopp and his players.
These are dark days for United, the air thick with rancour and protest; the travelling supporters once again chanted for the removal of the Glazer family.
They have even turned on some of the players, Harry Maguire and Paul Pogba having been barracked of late. Pogba limped off after 10 minutes here and it was easy to think that, even so early, he had concluded he was better off away from the pitch.
Liverpool started with the goalkeeper, Alisson, pulling a Cruyff‑style move on Bruno Fernandes, highlighting the confidence in their veins, and the breakthrough goal showcased their well-grooved understandings and United’s inability to defend with any physicality. The visiting side could not lay a glove on the red shirts as they worked the ball up from the back, Mané eventually releasing Salah and his cross made to measure for Díaz.
It was a lovely moment on seven minutes when the Liverpool supporters joined their United counterparts in clapping for Cristiano Ronaldo, who was on compassionate leave following the death of his baby boy in childbirth.
Back to the action and Liverpool called the tune for the remainder of the first half, supremely untroubled at the back, pressing brilliantly, dominating the ball. United chased shadows and it was remarkable to see how Liverpool found spaces in between the lines and out wide, particularly on the right through Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold.
The second goal came when Joël Matip stepped forward, got the ball back from Diaz and played it to Mané. Salah was already running off Diogo Dalot, the makeshift left wing-back, and Mané pivoted to find him. It was a brilliant assist. Salah took a touch before steering home.
United were error-strewn, treating the ball like a hot coal and, on the two occasions before the interval that they thought they had got Marcus Rashford away with high balls over the top, the striker’s touch deserted him. Rashford struggled sorely, his confidence seemingly in tatters.
Rangnick was fortunate that the half-time damage was not heavier; Liverpool, certainly, had the chances. Things did get a little better for him during the first 20 minutes of the second half, even if Thiago continued to dazzle, pinging his passes, gliding over the turf.
Rashford, flagged offside but clearly on for VAR purposes, blew a one-on-one with Alisson. But then United played Anthony Elanga into trouble, Andy Robertson tackled him and fed Díaz, whose cut‑back teed up Mané.
Liverpool’s fourth also followed a United turnover, this time by the substitute, Hannibal Mejbri. For United, the only mercy was the full‑time whistle.
Source: The Guardian