Mohamed Salah got back in the goalscoring groove with a brace as Liverpool surged to the Premier League summit with a 4-0 rout of a woeful Manchester United at Anfield.
The Merseysiders were in irrepressible form as they moved two points clear of Manchester City to crank up the title pressure ahead of the champions’ home clash with Brighton on Wednesday night.
United boss Ralf Rangnick deployed a back five in an attempt to frustrate Jurgen Klopp’s men and try to bolster their own top four ambitions with a positive result, but their game plan was thrown into chaos inside five minutes when Luis Diaz tucked in Salah’s low cross to net his fourth goal for the club.
Both sets of fans then paid tribute to the absent Cristiano Ronaldo in the seventh minute following the death of his baby son, with universal applause ringing out in spite of the fierce rivalry that exists between the clubs.
Liverpool continued to dominate and had United chasing shadows in what proved to be a scintillating half of football from Klopp’s side, and they deservedly eased two ahead on 22 minutes.
A slick move ended with Sadio Mane playing a sublime first-time pass on the turn to free Salah to net his first goal from open play since February 19.
United were fortunate to be just the two behind at the interval but improved briefly in the second period and the hosts were grateful to Alisson for a double save that denied both Marcus Rashford and Anthony Elanga.
Liverpool eventually found some rhythm again and put the result beyond any doubt on 66 minutes when Mane coolly guided home a low, first-time shot after fine play from Diaz and Andy Robertson.
Salah then rubbed salt in the Red Devils’ wounds when he grabbed his 30th goal of the season five minutes from time.
The result keeps the Merseysiders firmly in the title hunt with six matches to play but United drop to sixth, three points adrift of fourth-placed Tottenham having played a game more.
Liverpool are back in Premier League action on Sunday when they welcome neighbours Everton to Anfield. Man United visit Arsenal in a crunch encounter in the battle for fourth spot on Saturday.
TALKING POINT – MAGNIFICENT LIVERPOOL MARCH ON
The red machine appears to be hitting peak efficiency at just the right time – and yes, the quadruple bid is still alive and kicking.
There was no hangover from the Wembley win over Manchester City as they demonstrated the gulf in class between themselves and United once more to claim a first league double since 2013-14 and a ridiculous 9-0 aggregate over their fierce rivals for the season.
It’s exciting times to be a Kopite and all eyes will now turn to Manchester City to see if they will maintain their nerve and regain top spot on Wednesday night.
The big games just keep coming for Liverpool with struggling neighbours Everton followed by the small matter of the home leg of a Champions League semi final with Villarreal three days later.
As for United, where do you start? It was a horror show and once again shone a spotlight on the major issues their next manager will have to address. The top four looks a forlorn hope on this evidence and the need to get the changes right across the club in the summer only grow in importance.
MAN OF THE MATCH – THIAGO ALCANTARA (LIVERPOOL)
The midfielder was quite simply sensational. All three of Liverpool’s attacking triumvirate netted and picked up an assist, but it says much about the Spaniard’s display that he will take most of the plaudits following this win. His touch on the ball, exquisite vision and the execution of his passing was on another level, particularly in the first half.
Liverpool: Alisson 7, Alexander-Arnold 8, Robertson 8, Matip 8, Van Dijk 8, Fabinho 8, Henderson 8, Thiago 9, Mane 9, Salah 9, Diaz 9. Subs: Jota 7, Keita n/a, Milner n/a.
Manchester United: De Gea 6, Wan-Bissaka 6, Lindelof 5, Maguire 5, Dalot 5, Jones 5, Matic 5, Rashford 5, Pogba n/a, Elanga 6, Fernandes 5. Subs: Lingard 6, Sancho 6, Mejbri n/a.
5’ GOAL! Liverpool 1-0 Man United (Diaz). Diaz taps home Salah’s low cross from close range after Mane had exposed United’s attempt at a high line all too easily.
22’ GOAL! Liverpool 2-0 Man United(Salah). Salah gets back in the goalscoring groove with a clinical low finish after a breathtaking first-time pass in-behind from Mane.
64’ MAN UNITED CHANCES! Sancho jinks in from the left and finds the diagonal run of Rashford. He’s in on Alisson but the keeper makes a superb stop and is quickly back on his feet to deny the follow up from Elanga.
68’ GOAL! Liverpool 3-0 Man United (Mane). Robertson and Diaz combine down the left to set up Mane to guide a lovely first-time shot into the bottom corner.
85’ GOAL! Liverpool 4-0 Man United(Salah). Salah grabs his second of the game and his 30th of the season as he races on to Jota’s pass and dinks a deflected shot beyond De Gea.