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EPL: Liverpool crush Manchester United

Liverpool dealt a severe blow to Manchester United’s title aspirations with a 3-1 thumping thanks to a master-class in goal poaching by Dirk Kuyt. If defeat on Tuesday left the Old Trafford faithful complaining and grumpy about refereeing decisions, this was worse because they were comprehensively outclassed right from the start. Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard started despite speculation that he could miss out with a groin injury and record winter signing Andy Carroll was on the bench. For Manchester United, Wes Brown filled in for the suspended Nemanja Vidic, Rafael replaced O’Shea at right back and Berbatov replaced Hernandez up front. Liverpool was out of the blocks early and could have gone ahead had Suarez been able to sort out his feet and prod in an attempted shot from Mereiles. United’s only moment of the half came when hattrick hero of this reverse fixture, Berbatov volleyed from outside the box only to see his effort kiss the far post.

Suarez magic:

United had no answer for Suarez all afternoon

For the game’s opening goal, former Ajax man Luis Suarez went past Rafael, rode the challenge of Carrick and threaded a beautiful ball past Wes Brown for Kuyt to tap in from a yard out. It was a piece of sublime control and skill which the Kop will remember for a long time.

The Nani Horror show:

A howler followed by being stretchered off capped a horrible afternoon for Nani

United’s misery was compounded on the 40th minute when Nani, most inexplicably headed a ball back across his own goal (instead of clearing it out) for Dirk Kuyt to pounce and score his second of the afternoon. It got worse for United moments later when a rash challenge from Carragher meant Nani had to be stretchered off. This drew a petulant lunge from Rafael moments later and within a space of couple of minutes before the break, Carragher, Rafael, Van der Sar and Skertel all entered referee Phil Dowd’s book.

Any hair dryer effect?

United fans were desperately hoping a locker room rant from Sir Alex might wind up the Reds and they indeed came out in the second half with a spring in their steps. Hernandez and then Giggs having a crack before Berbatov had his header chested off the line by Raul Mereiles.

Kuyt completes his hattrick:

Dirk Kuyt: Liverpool's hattrick hero

However this was to Dirk Kuyt’s day and after Nani, it was the turn of fellow Dutchman Edwin Van der Sar to turn generous. The United goalie failed to hold on to a free kick from Suarez and Kuyt slotted his third goal from less than 4 yards to complete his hattrick.

The final rituals:

Andy Carroll came on receiving a hero’s reception at Anfield and his first touch was a header on target though it hadn’t the sting to bother Van der Sar. United grabbed a late consolation when Hernandez rose to nod home his fourteenth goal of the season. However it was too little to late for Sir Alex’s men.

In a season where we have continuously pointed out that United possibly cannot get away with ordinary away performances, they have come unstuck in a week which tossed up two of the toughest away games of the season. After being charged by the FA following his post comments against Chelsea , Sir Alex refrained from making any comment just like he had cancelled media commitments prior to the game. Such was the nature of the defeat, he could not have taken it well and with an all important FA Cup quarter final clash coming up in a week’s team, it is make or break for Manchester United. What also came to light yesterday was despite their flamboyant attacking resources, how much they rely on their water tight defense especially Nemanja Vidic. Having said that Manchester United still remain league leaders albeit having played a game extra and if they use this forgettable week as a wakeup call and clean up their act in away games, they are still the team to beat in the Barclays Premier League.

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