Liverpool sucked the optimism right out of Manchester United on Sunday, hammering the recently crowned League Cup champions 7-0 to move within three points of fourth place.
Cody Gakpo, Darwin Nunez, and Mohamed Salah each scored twice and Roberto Firmino added another off the bench to condemn United to their worst-ever Premier League defeat just a week on from their triumph over Newcastle United at Wembley Stadium.
The loss is United’s joint-worst in their entire history and their heaviest since a 7-0 humiliation at the hands of Wolverhampton Wanderers in December 1931. The Red Devils also lost by seven goals to Aston Villa in December 1930 and Blackburn Rovers in April 1926.
Six of Liverpool’s goals came in an explosive second half that floored Erik ten Hag’s resurgent side.
“I am surprised because I have seen the last weeks and months this team is resilient and has a winning attitude. Second half, we didn’t have a winning attitude at all. We didn’t stick to the plan and we didn’t do our jobs,” the Dutchman said on BBC’s Match of the Day. “We didn’t track back, and it was really unprofessional.
“We have seen in the past we can bounce back. After Brentford, after Manchester City. This is definitely a strong setback and is unacceptable. I’m really disappointed and angry about it.
“It is a reality check. We have to take this strong.”
The opening period was all even until Gakpo guided a right-footed shot past goalkeeper David De Gea in the 43rd minute. Nunez took advantage of a goalmouth scramble to head in the second just after the interval. Three minutes later and Liverpool were at it again, Salah turning Lisandro Martinez inside out before teeing up Gakpo for his second of the night.
Salah got on the scoresheet in the 66th minute when he found himself in open space and lashed home from close range. That goal tied him with Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler as the club’s all-time leading scorer in the Premier League.
Salah then took ownership of the record, scoring in the top flight with Liverpool for the 129th time with an easy finish off a messy sequence in United’s area that encapsulated everything that was wrong with the visitors’ performance.
The defeat – just their second in their last 23 matches across all competitions – all but ends their unexpected push for the title. It also underscores the work Ten Hag has to do at Old Trafford – even after guiding the club to its first title in six years last weekend at Wembley. United remain 14 points behind league leaders Arsenal, and the gap to fifth-placed Liverpool is down to just seven points.
The feeling on Merseyside is much different. Though the Reds are out of the race for silverware on the domestic front and face a 5-2 deficit against Real Madrid in the round of 16 of the Champions League, they can still qualify for Europe’s top competition next season by finishing in the top four.
Liverpool trail fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur by three points but have a game in hand.
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