Red Devils beat Liverpool 3-0 to retain third place in EPL points table
Manchester: Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata and Robin van Persie scored as Manchester United rubbed salt into Liverpool's wounds with a crushing 3-0 home victory in the English Premier League yesterday.
Top trio: Man United's Robin van Persie celebrates with teammates Juan Mata (left) and Wayne Rooney (right) after scoring the team's third goal against Liverpool in an EPL match at Old Trafford in Manchester yesterday. Mata and Rooney got the other two goals for United. Pics/AFP
Rooney and Mata both found the net before half-time, the latter apparently from an offside position, before van Persie added a third to avenge United's loss to Liverpool by the same scoreline at Old Trafford in March.
Victory, United's sixth in a row, allowed Louis van Gaal's side to move back to third place and within eight points of leaders Chelsea and five of champions Manchester City, fuelling hopes of a slow-burning title push.
United's fans finished the game by chanting "You're getting sacked in the morning" at Liverpool coach Brendan Rodgers, whose side limped out of the Champions League in mid-week and now trail United by 10 points.
But Liverpool might have emerged from the game with more credit had it not been for a stunning display by United goalkeeper David de Gea, who denied Raheem Sterling and substitute Mario Balotelli three times each.
Player of the Month
De Gea was presented with United's Player of the Month award prior to kick-off and he demonstrated his value to van Gaal in the 12th minute by sliding out to thwart Sterling from Adam Lallana's incisive pass. Within a minute, United were ahead. Antonio Valencia left Joe Allen chasing shadows with a cute nutmeg on the right flank before cutting the ball back for the unmarked Rooney to sweep home from 15 yards.
Manchester United fans hold up a banner taunting Liverpool veteran Steven Gerrard yesterday
Just as in their 2-1 win at Southampton last Monday, United went ahead against the run of play, and Liverpool's cause was not helped when Glen Johnson went off holding his groin in the 25th minute. Kolo Toure replaced him.
United inflated their lead five minutes before half-time with a goal that carried more than a hint of injustice. Van Persie's head made only fleeting contact with Ashley Young's left-wing cross, but it meant that Mata, who followed in to head home at the back post, was offside.
Unfortunately for Liverpool, the officials missed it. Liverpool sent on Balotelli for Lallana at half-time, but the visitors continued to misfire in the United box.
Jordan Henderson headed over from a Sterling cross and when Jonny Evans' careless square pass gave Sterling a free run on goal, a heavy touch took him wide and De Gea sped out to dismay him again.
Dejan Lovren errs
For Man United's third goal, Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren did not get enough purchase on his attempt to clear Rooney's low cross and Mata teed up van Persie to brush home his fourth goal in four games. Still De Gea stood firm, saving twice from Balotelli in the latter stages.