Reds' theatre of dreams

Reds' theatre of dreams
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard celebrates his second penalty conversion by kissing a TV camera. He missed a third spot kick but Luis Suarez would add a third for a crushing victory

Manchester United 0 Liverpool 3

Perhaps David Moyes was simply trying to downplay the expectations for his side when he branded Liverpool favourites for this game. Perhaps he was attempting to increase the pressure on Brendan Rodgers' side. Whichever, and like much else Moyes has done in his disastrous reign at Old Trafford, it backfired.

Liverpool played like favourites. They won on enemy territory for the first time in six years, courtesy of two Steven Gerrard penalties and Luis Suarez's 25th goal of the season. They were the more committed, the more coherent, the more confident.

In contrast, Moyes' United were just wretched. They finished with 10 men, with Nemanja Vidic collecting his fourth career red card against Liverpool, and are now 14 points behind their arch-rivals. This was another low point in a season pockmarked by them. Because their conquerors were Liverpool, it may have been the most painful of all of their dozen defeats.

It was a win which illustrated that Liverpool merit their billing as title contenders, a seismic, superb victory. They are the Premier League's form team. They defended doggedly, which they have not always done, posed a threat through Suarez and Daniel Sturridge while Rodgers configured his side cleverly. He outwitted Moyes.

Above all, though, Liverpool had Gerrard. It is rare that an opponent at Old Trafford is awarded one penalty. Liverpool should have had four, got three and scored two. It was that sort of extraordinary afternoon.

It made referee Mark Clattenburg a central character in the drama. Initially, he ruled in United's favour when Marouane Fellaini tripped Suarez. He ignored Liverpool's appeals then. Clattenburg was more receptive when Sturridge crossed and Suarez's touch was handled by Rafael. The right-back, booked a minute earlier for a needless foul on Gerrard, escaped a second booking. The Liverpool captain exacted his revenge by coolly converting from 12 yards.

His reputation as a nerveless penalty taker was cemented in the opening minute of the second half. Gerrard beat David de Gea again after Phil Jones, with a shoulder barge, upended Joe Allen. Remarkably, Liverpool had a third spot kick when Sturridge dived and Vidic, already booked, was dismissed.

Perhaps justice was done when Gerrard rolled his penalty against the post. Perhaps it then counted against Sturridge who, when tripped by Michael Carrick, did not get the benefit of another decision. Yet those incidents alone illustrate Liverpool's threat. Sturridge and Suarez had a series of shots and the Uruguayan added a third goal from the Englishman's pass.

In contrast, United were impotent. Their first shot on target, from Wayne Rooney, came on the stroke of half-time. Robin van Persie later headed wide but it was a dismal display.

It is hard to see how the beleaguered Moyes can recover from this. There should be no way back.

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