LIVERPOOL, England -- Liverpool brought Manchester United's bandwagon to a shuddering halt as Cody Gakpo, Darwin Nunez and Mohamed Salah all scored twice in a record 7-0 hammering of their arch-rivals to boost their Premier League top-four hopes at Anfield on Sunday.
A week after a resurgent United claimed their first trophy since 2017 by winning the League Cup and amid talk of a late title push they were blown away either side of halftime as Liverpool recorded their biggest ever victory in the fixture.
Third-placed United had looked marginally the better side for 43 minutes but it turned into an Anfield horror show for Erik ten Hag's side as they suffered the club's worst defeat since a 7-0 loss to Wolverhampton Wanderers in 1931.
Gakpo's superb finish from Liverpool's first attempt on target gave the hosts the halftime lead.
Within five minutes of the restart it was over as a contest with Nunez's header making it 2-0 after some comical defending allowed Harvey Elliott to cross and a lightning counter-attack led by Salah ended with Gakpo finishing in style for 3-0.
|Soccer Football - Premier League - Liverpool v Manchester United - Anfield, Liverpool, Britain - March 5, 2023 Liverpool's Mohamed Salah scores their sixth goal past Manchester United's Diogo Dalot. Photo: Reuters|
With United in disarray and losing their heads, Salah got in on the act to rifle in Liverpool's fourth in the 66th minute and Nunez then sent another header past helpless goalkeeper David De Gea in the 75th. But there was still more to come.
Salah rubbed salt into United wounds with a close-range effort to score a record 129th Premier League goal for the Merseyside club, taking him past the mark of Robbie Fowler.
Roberto Firmino then came off the bench to send Juergen Klopp's side into seventh heaven with an angled shot after more good work by Egyptian Salah, although by that stage most of United's army of followers had headed for the exits.
It was the first time since 1999 that three players had scored two goals for the same club in the Premier League -- the last time being when Andy Cole, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Dwight Yorke all scored twice for United against Nottingham Forest.
Liverpool had thrashed United 4-0 at Anfield last April but considering the reversal of fortunes for the two clubs since, with United on the rise and Liverpool off the pace, this result was a major surprise.
|Soccer Football - Premier League - Liverpool v Manchester United - Anfield, Liverpool, Britain - March 5, 2023 Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring their sixth goal. Photo: Reuters|
United's sobering defeat, described by Sky Sports pundit and their former defender Gary Neville as a 'disgrace', left them in third place on 49 points and surely out of the title race. They are 14 points off leaders Arsenal, who have played a game more.
Liverpool's fourth win in five league matches lifted them above Newcastle United into fifth on 42 points, three points behind fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur with a game in hand.
"It was a fantastic day for everyone," Liverpool skipper Jordan Henderson told Sky Sports. "The performance level from every single player was top quality today which is something that we've been missing for a while of course.
"Today you could see the energy levels and everything was back, although to be fair the last few Premier League games had shown we were on the right path."
Liverpool's previous biggest win over United was a 7-1 victory in 1895 when both clubs were in the second tier.
|Soccer Football - Premier League - Liverpool v Manchester United - Anfield, Liverpool, Britain - March 5, 2023 Liverpool's Cody Gakpo scores their third goal past Manchester United's David de Gea. Photo: Reuters|
There was no hint of what was to come in the opening period as United weathered some early pressure and engineered the better chances with Bruno Fernandes a whisker away from scoring with a header and Marcus Rashford then spurning a chance.
But everything changed once Gakpo was released by a superb pass from Andy Robertson down the left channel and stepped inside United midfielder Fred before dispatching a low shot inside the far post.
After that United's disintegration was spectacular as they suffered only their second defeat in the last 12 league games.
"In the second half it was just not us. It was not our standards. We didn't play as a team," Ten Hag said.
"We didn't stick to the plan and we didn't do our jobs. I'm really disappointed and angry about it."