Steven Gerrard scored two penalties and missed a third as Liverpool emphasised their title credentials with a resounding win over reigning Premier League champions Manchester United at Old Trafford.

In what was seen as the biggest test of their ability to claim their first crown since 1990, Liverpool passed the examination in emphatic fashion against an abject United to move to within four points of leaders Chelsea, with a game in hand.

Liverpool confidence high - Rodgers

Liverpool captain Gerrard demonstrated their superiority with penalties either side of the interval as Brendan Rodgers's side exerted almost complete domination over a home team looking in need of a drastic overhaul.

Gerrard missed another spot-kick after Daniel Sturridge went to ground under a Nemanja Vidic challenge - the United captain picking up his fourth red card against Liverpool in the process - but there was no stopping Luis Suarez as he added a third.

At this stage last season there was a 29-point gap between these sides in United's favour as they beat Rodgers's team 2-1 at home.

But Liverpool's dominance here underscored the scale of the turnaround, their improvement and the collapse in fortunes at Old Trafford since manager David Moyes succeeded Sir Alex Ferguson.

Analysis

"It was one of the most comprehensive away performances at Old Trafford for many years. Liverpool absolutely battered them in all areas and United looked like strangers. Make no bones about it, it could have been six or seven, Liverpool's movement was so good.

"Liverpool were on the front foot and United were nowhere near it. Adnan Januzaj and Juan Mata out wide is not working for them. You can see why Jose Mourinho got rid of Mata - you need legs to get up and down and he hasn't got that. There's no point him being on the pitch."

Moyes must now pick up a bedraggled team before Wednesday's return Champions League game against Olympiakos, where they need to overcome a 2-0 deficit from the first leg in Greece.

For Liverpool, Rodgers and their exultant supporters there are no such concerns. The Reds are flying high with a self-belief that marks them out as having a real chance to win the title.

And with Manchester City and Chelsea, who lost to Aston Villa on Saturday, still to visit Anfield, Liverpool have been presented with a wonderful opportunity to claim the prize that was once almost a permanent presence in their trophy room.

Liverpool's intentions - not to mention the confidence now surging through this team - were clear inside two minutes as Sturridge found space inside the area from Jordan Henderson's pass but could not find the target.

They had claims for a penalty ignored when Marouane Fellaini tangled clumsily with Suarez. The Uruguayan stayed on his feet and was left a picture of frustration when the spot-kick was not awarded.

Luis Suarez celebrates after the full-time whistle

Luis Suarez celebrates after the full-time whistle

Sturridge squandered another opportunity for Liverpool, but that was a further sign of a sharpness and threat that was in complete contrast to a pedestrian United.

The goal Liverpool deserved finally arrived 10 minutes before the break when Rafael, who had just been booked for a wild challenge on Gerrard, clearly handled in the area. It was a straightforward decision for referee Mark Clattenburg and Gerrard scored the spot-kick with ease in front of the Stretford End.

United were unable to get their main attacking players into the game but they were given hope by Wayne Rooney's rising drive which was turned away by the diving Simon Mignolet.

Did you know?

The last time Liverpool won at Old Trafford captain Steven Gerrard scored from the penalty spot. The Reds skipper converted in their 4-1 victory in March 2009.

All the plans Moyes will have laid out during the interval were sabotaged within moments of the restart as Liverpool were awarded a second penalty after Phil Jones bundled Joe Allen to the ground. Once more Gerrard stepped forward and once more he demonstrated his expertise from the spot.

Liverpool had been virtually untroubled but a rare ragged passage of play persuaded Rodgers to introduce Philippe Coutinho for Raheem Sterling with 19 minutes remaining.

United, in a move that was long overdue, made a change of their own with 15 minutes left, sending on Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley for Fellaini and Adnan Januzaj.

Remarkably, Liverpool were awarded a third penalty when Sturridge went down with Vidic in close proximity.

Top four a long way off - Moyes

The Serbian defender remonstrated with the Liverpool striker, who he clearly felt had dived, and his frustration increased as he received a second yellow card and made his way off disconsolately.

Gerrard, with the rarest of opportunities, could not make it a hat-trick of successful penalties by a visiting side at Old Trafford, striking his effort against the base of the post.

Liverpool were taking full advantage of their numerical supremacy and it was no surprise when Suarez ran unhindered into the area to score, having been denied by a magnificent save from De Gea moments earlier.

United's fans chanted in defiance as the final whistle approached - but they were forced to accept an ominous message about their own shortcomings and Liverpool's growing stature as Clattenburg blew.

Man Utd reaction:

Wayne Rooney says losing to Liverpool is a "nightmare"

Liverpool reaction:

Steven Gerrard says Liverpool are "genuine title contenders"

Visit the BBC Sport Facebook  page for a gallery of the best pictures from Sunday's Premier League matches.

Lineup, Bookings (7) & Substitutions (6)

Manchester United

  • 01 de Gea
  • 02 Rafael Booked
  • 03 Evra
  • 16 Carrick
  • 04 Jones
  • 15 Vidic Dismissed after an earlier booking
  • 08 Mata (Ferdinand - 87' )
  • 31 Fellaini (Cleverley - 76' )
  • 20 van Persie
  • 10 Rooney
  • 44 Januzaj (Welbeck - 76' )

Substitutes

  • 05 Ferdinand
  • 13 Lindegaard
  • 18 Young
  • 19 Welbeck
  • 23 Cleverley
  • 25 A Valencia
  • 26 Kagawa

Liverpool

  • 22 Mignolet
  • 02 Johnson
  • 38 Flanagan Booked
  • 08 Gerrard Booked (Lucas - 87' )
  • 37 Skrtel Booked
  • 05 Agger
  • 14 Henderson
  • 31 Sterling (Coutinho - 72' )
  • 15 Sturridge Booked (Iago Aspas - 92' )
  • 07 Suárez
  • 24 Allen

Substitutes

  • 01 Jones
  • 09 Iago Aspas
  • 10 Coutinho
  • 12 Moses
  • 17 Sakho
  • 20 Cissokho
  • 21 Lucas
Ref: Mark Clattenburg
Att: 75,225

Match Stats

Shots

13 18

On target

1 7

Corners

3 4

Fouls

13 12

Live Text Commentary

Full time

Full Time Match ends, Manchester United 0, Liverpool 3.

90:00 +4:05 Full time

Full Time Second Half ends, Manchester United 0, Liverpool 3.

90:00 +3:43

Foul by Luis Suarez (Liverpool).

90:00 +3:43

Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

90:00 +3:13

Attempt missed. Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) right footed shot from outside the box is just a bit too high from a direct free kick.

90:00 +2:30

Foul by Lucas Leiva (Liverpool).

90:00 +2:30

Danny Welbeck (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

90:00 +1:22 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Liverpool. Iago Aspas replaces Daniel Sturridge.

90:00 +0:43

Foul by Joe Allen (Liverpool).

90:00 +0:43

Rafael (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

90:00 +0:12

Attempt saved. Jordan Henderson (Liverpool) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Jon Flanagan.

87:33

Attempt missed. Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Jordan Henderson.

86:26 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Manchester United. Rio Ferdinand replaces Juan Mata.

86:04 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Liverpool. Lucas Leiva replaces Steven Gerrard.

85:13

Foul by Danny Welbeck (Manchester United).

85:13

Joe Allen (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

83:29 Goal scored

Goal! Goal! Manchester United 0, Liverpool 3. Luis Suarez (Liverpool) left footed shot from the centre of the box to the bottom left corner. Assisted by Daniel Sturridge.

83:27

Attempt missed. Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool) left footed shot from outside the box misses to the right. Assisted by Philippe Coutinho.

82:15

Corner, Liverpool. Conceded by David de Gea.

82:13

Attempt saved. Luis Suarez (Liverpool) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Glen Johnson.

81:29

Offside, Manchester United. Wayne Rooney tries a through ball, but Robin van Persie is caught offside.

78:25

Attempt missed. Luis Suarez (Liverpool) right footed shot from the left side of the box is close, but misses the top right corner. Assisted by Philippe Coutinho.

77:57

Penalty missed! Still Manchester United 0, Liverpool 2. Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) hits the left post with a right footed shot.

76:42 Dismissal

Dismissal Second yellow card to Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United) for a bad foul.

76:37

Penalty conceded by Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United) after a foul in the penalty area.

76:37

Penalty Liverpool. Daniel Sturridge draws a foul in the penalty area.

75:22 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Manchester United. Danny Welbeck replaces Adnan Januzaj.

75:15 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Manchester United. Tom Cleverley replaces Marouane Fellaini.

74:47

Attempt missed. Robin van Persie (Manchester United) header from the centre of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Wayne Rooney with a cross.

73:53

Attempt missed. Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right following a corner.

73:20

Corner, Liverpool. Conceded by Phil Jones.

73:18

Attempt blocked. Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Jordan Henderson.

71:41

Attempt missed. Jordan Henderson (Liverpool) right footed shot from outside the box is too high following a set piece situation.

71:19 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Liverpool. Philippe Coutinho replaces Raheem Sterling.

70:28 Booking

Booking Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United) is shown the yellow card.

70:23

Foul by Rafael (Manchester United).

70:23

Luis Suarez (Liverpool) wins a free kick on the left wing.

67:01

Offside, Manchester United. Patrice Evra tries a through ball, but Robin van Persie is caught offside.

65:23

Attempt missed. Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United) right footed shot from outside the box is too high.

65:21

Attempt blocked. Juan Mata (Manchester United) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.

64:21

Rafael (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

64:21

Foul by Jon Flanagan (Liverpool).

63:34

Attempt blocked. Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Michael Carrick.

61:40

Foul by Wayne Rooney (Manchester United).

61:40

Jordan Henderson (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

56:51

Delay over. They are ready to continue.

55:45

Delay in match Daniel Agger (Liverpool) because of an injury.

54:58

Attempt missed. Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United) header from the centre of the box is high and wide to the left. Assisted by Juan Mata with a cross following a corner.

54:30

Corner, Manchester United. Conceded by Steven Gerrard.

53:52 Booking

Booking Martin Skrtel (Liverpool) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

53:50

Foul by Martin Skrtel (Liverpool).

53:50

Juan Mata (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

50:10

Foul by Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United).

50:10

Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

49:02

Corner, Manchester United. Conceded by Glen Johnson.

48:07

Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

48:07

Foul by Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool).

47:38

Foul by Adnan Januzaj (Manchester United).

47:38

Joe Allen (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

45:57 Goal scored

Goal! Goal! Manchester United 0, Liverpool 2. Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) converts the penalty with a right footed shot to the bottom right corner.

45:26

Penalty conceded by Phil Jones (Manchester United) after a foul in the penalty area.

45:26

Penalty Liverpool. Joe Allen draws a foul in the penalty area.

45:00

Second Half begins Manchester United 0, Liverpool 1.

45:00 +2:22 Half time

Half Time First Half ends, Manchester United 0, Liverpool 1.

45:00 +0:19

Attempt missed. Adnan Januzaj (Manchester United) right footed shot from the left side of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Juan Mata.

43:49

Attempt blocked. Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.

43:47

Attempt saved. Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the top centre of the goal. Assisted by Rafael.

43:11

Attempt missed. Luis Suarez (Liverpool) right footed shot from more than 40 yards on the right wing misses to the right. Assisted by Joe Allen.

41:31

Attempt missed. Patrice Evra (Manchester United) header from the centre of the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Juan Mata with a cross following a corner.

41:04

Corner, Manchester United. Conceded by Martin Skrtel.

41:02

Attempt blocked. Robin van Persie (Manchester United) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Rafael.

37:05

Offside, Manchester United. Juan Mata tries a through ball, but Robin van Persie is caught offside.

36:25 Booking

Booking Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

36:04

Delay over. They are ready to continue.

35:00

Delay in match Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United) because of an injury.

35:00

Delay in match Raheem Sterling (Liverpool) because of an injury.

34:49

Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

34:49

Foul by Steven Gerrard (Liverpool).

33:40 Goal scored

Goal! Goal! Manchester United 0, Liverpool 1. Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) converts the penalty with a right footed shot to the top right corner.

32:39

Penalty conceded by Rafael (Manchester United) with a hand ball in the penalty area.

31:15 Booking

Booking Rafael (Manchester United) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

31:12

Foul by Rafael (Manchester United).

31:12

Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

30:37 Booking

Booking Jon Flanagan (Liverpool) is shown the yellow card.

30:28

Adnan Januzaj (Manchester United) wins a free kick on the right wing.

30:28

Foul by Jon Flanagan (Liverpool).

27:37

Attempt saved. Joe Allen (Liverpool) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom right corner.

26:28

Juan Mata (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

26:28

Foul by Glen Johnson (Liverpool).

24:48

Corner, Liverpool. Conceded by Phil Jones.

24:06

Foul by Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United).

24:06

Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

19:17

Attempt missed. Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool) left footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Luis Suarez with a through ball.

18:31

Foul by Patrice Evra (Manchester United).

18:31

Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool) wins a free kick on the right wing.

18:19

Attempt blocked. Robin van Persie (Manchester United) right footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked.

18:17

Attempt blocked. Robin van Persie (Manchester United) left footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked.

16:12

Hand ball by Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United).

10:58

Foul by Adnan Januzaj (Manchester United).

10:58

Glen Johnson (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

9:57

Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) wins a free kick on the right wing.

9:57

Foul by Jon Flanagan (Liverpool).

8:53

Rafael (Manchester United) wins a free kick on the right wing.

8:53

Foul by Jon Flanagan (Liverpool).

7:24

Attempt saved. Glen Johnson (Liverpool) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom right corner.

6:51

Delay over. They are ready to continue.

6:31

Delay in match Phil Jones (Manchester United) because of an injury.

5:45

Offside, Liverpool. Jordan Henderson tries a through ball, but Luis Suarez is caught offside.

4:36

Corner, Liverpool. Conceded by Phil Jones.

3:45

Juan Mata (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

3:45

Foul by Steven Gerrard (Liverpool).

2:12

Attempt missed. Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool) right footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Jordan Henderson with a through ball.

0:00

First Half begins.

0:00

Lineups are announced and players are warming up.

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