Manchester United 3 Liverpool 0.Manchester United cruised to their sixth successive league victory at Old Trafford against a Liverpool side who now limp along ten points behind their old rivals.
First half goals from Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata, and a second half effort from Robin Persie condemned the Reds to their seventh league defeat of the season and increased the pressure on under fire boss Brendan Rodgers.
He may have told reporters after the defeat that he "does not feel any additional pressure" but the Northern Irishman knows that Liverpool's owners, the Fenway Sports Group, are not shy in wielding the managerial axe. Rafa Benitez, Roy Hodgson and Kenny Dalglish have all said farewell to Anfield in the last five years and Rodgers' job will surely be in jeopardy if he doesn't transform Liverpool's fortunes in the second half of the season.
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Currently lying tenth, Liverpool were last week dumped out of the Champions League after failing to beat Swiss minnows Basel, and this comprehensive defeat was another sign of how far Liverpool have slipped in the space of a few months.
Back in March Liverpool came to Old Trafford and hammered United 3-0 but on Sunday they were clearly second best, whatever Rodgers might have thought.
"I didn't think it was a 3-0 game," he said. "I thought we were the better team in the first half but we gave away disappointing goals today. I think it tells you everything that their goalkeeper was man of the match. Our creativity was good today, probably the best all season."
Although Rodgers insisted he wasn't under pressure, he struggled to strike much of an upbeat note when asked if he thought Liverpool could turn things around after Christmas. "We've just got to keep working, we know what the solutions are and hopefully the confidence will return," said Rodgers. "I'll keep searching for the solutions. It's been difficult this year but that's the way it works."
It's been a difficult year, too, for United but this latest victory moves them three points clear of fourth place West Ham, who were held to a 1-1 draw at Sunderland on Saturday. Manchester City, second to Chelsea, are five points ahead of their neighbours but after a tough few months in the red half of Manchester, the club approaches the end of the year feeling more chipper than at any time since the end of the Alex Ferguson era in May 2013.
"I think we have scored wonderful goals [and] we also kept the shape very good," was Louis van Gaal's assessment. United's manager was at pains to praise the performance of his goalkeeper. "I'm proud we have a clean sheet but that is also because David De Gea has superb reactions," he said.
The Spanish gloveman was superb in denying Raheem Sterling early on when the score was still 0-0 and he also pulled off a string of saves after Rooney had given United the lead on 12 minutes.
Mata added a second in controversial circumstances five minutes before the interval, the Spaniard heading home while clearly offside. Mata had a hand in United's third, picking out van Persie as the Dutchman rounded off a miserable afternoon for the visitors.
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