Mohamed Salah scored twice as Liverpool thrashed old rivals Manchester United 4-0 at Anfield on Tuesday to take over the Premier League lead for at least the next 24 hours.
This was another humiliation of United by Juergen Klopp’s squad, who were scarcely troubled by their lifeless opponents.
Liverpool now has 76 points from 32 games, while Manchester City has 74 points from one fewer game, with Pep Guardiola’s side meeting Brighton and Hove Albion at the Etihad on Wednesday.
It was a bad night for United, who have now gone eight league games without a victory over Liverpool and have failed to score in five of their previous six visits to Anfield.
“It’s terrible, sad, maybe even humiliating, but we have to accept that they’re six years ahead of us now,” said United interim manager Ralf Rangnick, adding that the club was now in the midst of a “rebuild.”
United fell below Arsenal in goal differential, dropping to the sixth position with 54 points, despite having played two more games than the Gunners.
Tottenham Hotspur are presently in fourth place with 57 points, but although United are still in with a possibility of qualifying for the Champions League, there was nothing in their performance that suggested they deserved such a prize.
Rangnick, who was missing numerous regulars, including Cristiano Ronaldo, who was grieving the loss of his newborn baby, went with a five-man defense, with Phil Jones coming in.
It was a strategy that simply did not work, and Rangnick abandoned it at halfway, but Liverpool was already 2-0 up and in command.
Luis Diaz of Colombia handed Liverpool the lead in the fifth minute, knocking in from close range after Sadio Mane put Mohamed Salah clear down the right and the Egyptian produced a precise low cross for an easy finish.
United’s woes were exacerbated in the 10th minute when Paul Pogba walked off hurt, and with Rangnick’s team failing to get a foothold in the game, it was no surprise when the home side increased their lead.
Mane gave the spark once again, this time with a magnificent first-time ball to Salah, who, having dropped his befuddled marker Diogo Dalot, cut in from the right and finished with his signature left foot.
In the 68th minute, the Senegalese creator turned finisher, making it 3-0 after Andy Robertson burst down the left and Diaz picked up Mane, whose first-time finish on the turn rocketed into the bottom corner.
Salah capped off the carnage in the 85th minute when replacement Diogo Jota threaded a cross through to the Egyptian, who beat David De Gea with a deflected finish off the leg of the falling Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
The Anfield audience reveled in their North West rivals’ humiliation, while a portion of the visiting supporters opted to depart early.
After the game, Klopp gave the Kop four jubilant fist pumps, but when questioned about the 9-0 ‘aggregate score’ versus United this season, he expressed sorrow for his countrymen Rangnick.
“This is not a typical case.” They’re not in a terrific place right now, and they’re also dealing with a slew of injuries. When Pogba exited the field, they were forced to play without their customary midfield. When there is a lot of attacking players on the field, the pitch may become rather large.
“Playing in the center of the field with (Nemanja) Matic and (Bruno) Fernandes is not how you want to play.” It’s not that the players are bad people; it’s simply that this isn’t their natural game. We had 70-75 percent of the ball, and they had to defend, which was difficult. “I sympathize with them.”