Kuyt treble destroys limp United Ferguson speechless
Dutch ace combines with Suarez to leave
Manchester United 1
Alex Ferguson, the silent knight, refused to pass comment after this desperate display and no wonder he was speechless.
Manchester United were so poor, an experienced midfield exuding all the movement of Easter Island statues, while Wayne Rooney was alarmingly subdued. Rarely can a Ferguson team have performed with so little conviction or cohesion.
As the chastened visitors sloped back down the East Lancs Road, the noise behind them was deafening. Anfield was rocking to a rendition of 'Happy Birthday' to Kenny Dalglish, 60 on Friday. The sound system in the home dressing-room was almost knocking the plaster off the ceiling with a song for the unstoppable Luis Suarez. It was Flo Rida's 'Club Can't Handle Me'.
Manchester United Football Club certainly couldn't.
This was another remarkable day in the title race, and another epic episode in the long-running drama between England's greatest clubs. It saw a hat-trick for Dirk Kuyt, a consolation for Javier Hernandez that could not halt the crowing of the Kop, who chanted, "Can we play you every week?" It also saw the dark arts at work. A horrendous tackle from Jamie Carragher left a deep gash in Nani's leg. It also saw a filthy lunge by Rafael on Lucas. Both offences deserved more than the cautions administered by Phil Dowd, who otherwise did well to keep the incipient mayhem in check.
When the heat and dust-ups had died down, Dalglish rightly observed afterwards that Ferguson's side remain "the benchmark" for all those chasing excellence in the English game.
United remain favourites, yet what this sulphurous occasion proved was that they need rejuvenating, need greater vibrancy. The contrast with Liverpool, whose afternoon was illuminated by Suarez and who brought on Andy Carroll, was clear. Ferguson needs to invest heavily in the summer. Getting Carrick to sign a three-year contract is not sound business if he continues to perform as ineffectually as this.
Desire allied to technique is a formidable weapon, one that Suarez wielded brilliantly. The Uruguayan took some kicks, some that left him smeared across Anfield's greensward, and kept coming back for more. He created two goals for Kuyt before the break and kept scheming in the second half, kept dropping deep, turning and darting forward with the ball. When Suarez shimmied past Patrice Evra at one point, United almost needed a corkscrew to release their twisted left-back from the turf.
Anfield loved it, revelling in this celebration of the strengths of Liverpool No 7s, past and present. Similar chants are applied to "Dalglish" and "Suarez". The Kop deify Dalglish as if he has been sent down from on high in the directors' box to patrol the technical area, organising Liverpool's attempted sabotage mission of what could be a record-breaking campaign by United.
Although mindful of history and fans' passion, Dalglish simply wants to revive Liverpool. If United's pursuit of a 19th title suffers collateral damage then all well and good. Yesterday simply showed why the feel-good factor has returned to Anfield, why Dalglish deserves to be awarded a permanent contract.
The joy here will have been shared 200 miles to the south. Arsenal have stuttered of late, yet remain within three points (and three goals) of United with a game in hand.
Ferguson's 50th league game against Liverpool was a brutal affair that had an impact on the record books as well as the league table.
Kuyt recorded only the third Premier League hat-trick against United, after Egil Ostenstad and David Bentley. Kuyt's was the first Liverpool hat-trick against United in the league since Peter Beardsley in 1990.
Yet United had caught the eye in the early stages. They lined up 4-4-2, with Carrick surprisingly preferred to the more industrious Darren Fletcher.
Rooney dropped off Dimitar Berbatov, who gave momentary hope when eluding Carragher, beating Pepe Reina but not the post.
There was a strong belief and shape to Liverpool, Kuyt and Suarez alternating to good effect, utterly confusing Chris Smalling and Wes Brown.
How United missed Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. Smalling promises much but needs a far better organiser alongside him than Brown, who was almost as poor as Carrick.
Liverpool were so pumped up for this, so well prepared tactically and mentally by Dalglish, Steve Clarke and Sammy Lee, that even a full-strength United would have struggled. Suarez was flying, his movement as constant as it was intelligent.
And so it began, a game bequeathing many sweet memories for Liverpool fans.
Sotirios Kyrgiakos, who had replaced the hamstrung Fabio Aurelio, found Suarez on the edge of the box at the Anfield Road End, affording United supporters a ringside seat on the punishment their defence endured. Suarez dribbled past Rafael, Carrick and Brown before sending the ball across past Edwin van der Sar for Kuyt to apply the coup de grace.
And so it continued. Again Suarez played United's nemesis, this time raiding in from the right, like a skilled pugilist using every angle to weaken an opponent. The Uruguayan lifted over a cross that Nani, attempting to head clear, accidentally redirected back into the danger zone. What a gift.
Kuyt, unmarked and dangerous, headed in.
The game briefly turned nasty. Carragher had spoken eloquently earlier in the day about his respect for United's players, while understanding the loathing between supporters. Little respect could be detected as he tore into Nani, high and late. The Portuguese leapt up, remonstrated with Dowd, then collapsed and had to be carried away on a stretcher. Carragher did apologise afterwards.
And still the lunges went in. Caught by Maxi Rodriguez, Rafael stormed into Lucas, who almost needed clearance from John Lennon International to take avoidance action.
Ferguson introduced Hernandez and United briefly stirred. Ryan Giggs volleyed over. Berbatov's header was chested off the line by Raul Meireles.
But back came Liverpool, Meireles going close and then Kuyt poaching his third, after Van der Sar failed to control Suarez's free-kick.
When Suarez was withdrawn, the Liverpool fans stood in salute.
Dalglish had a smile as wide as the Mersey in greeting him. The party was really in full swing on the Kop, which launched into Happy Birthday for Dalglish.
The guests at least had a going-home present, a good header from Hernandez, but it will have been tense, brooding journey back for Ferguson and his players. (© Daily Telegraph, London)