Liverpool opened a two-point lead at the top of the Premier League after inflicting another comprehensive victory over Manchester United.
Mohamed Salah’s first two goals since February 19 – making it nine in his last six matches against Liverpool’s big rivals – were supplemented by strikes from Luis Diaz and Sadio Mane but the 4-0 scoreline hardly told the whole story.
This was the first time since October 2009 Liverpool had won three successive league matches against United, beaten 5-0 at Old Trafford earlier this season, and pulled them clear of Manchester City, who play Brighton on Wednesday night.
United, who had one shot on target, have now conceded more Premier League goals this season than 18th-placed Burnley, and defeat was a further blow to their top-four hopes.
Such were their injury problems – with Cristiano Ronaldo given compassionate leave after the tragic death of his newborn son – Phil Jones made only his third appearance of the season.
By the time Paul Pogba added to those woes by coming off after 10 minutes his side were already behind.
However, injuries appeared the least of their worries. Getting a touch of the ball was the more pressing concern as Liverpool dominated from the off.
Their two banks of five were either too disjointed or too inert to have any effect on proceedings and, as a result, their hosts – led by the majestic Thiago Alcantara – seized an initiative they never relinquished.
"When we have these attackers in front of us and you see not only how they score but in defensive situations they want to get involved. It makes us perform," said Thiago afterwards.
"It is one of the strongest performances at Anfield. We are not worried about where the goals come from. We are happy with all the strikers and how we play."
Salah added: "In midfield they make our life easier. We have a clean sheet here and there. Once we get the first goal, we want the second and the third. It was a top performance by us and hopefully we continue.
Andy Mitten's reaction from Anfield
"I score many goals for this club. Sometimes you have bad luck. The most important thing is the team winning. We just need to focus on ourselves and the rest is not in our hands."
The confidence with which Liverpool approached what used to be their key game of the season was exemplified by goalkeeper Alisson Becker, who beat Bruno Fernandes with a Cruyff turn on his own penalty spot in only the fourth minute.
Less than 60 seconds later United were behind as centre-forward Mane dropped deep and was given 10 yards of space to play a through-ball pass and Salah crossed for Diaz to score the 400th goal under Jurgen Klopp from close range.
Mane had a shot deflected wide before providing an even more sumptuous pass to tee up Salah to score with a confident finish.
Liverpool v Man United player ratings
By this point United were seemingly resigned to their fate and were barely able to lay a foot on the ball – the only time they seemed to have any possession was when Liverpool gave it to them.
Diaz had the ball in the net but was also flagged offside before United’s one half-chance from a Victor Lindelof ball over the top saw Marcus Rashford’s poor touch poke it straight to Alisson.
Moments before the break Jones’ downward header dropped into the space in front of the back four; Jordan Henderson set off to retrieve it while Fernandes looked over to the assistant referee hoping for another offside flag.
It was symptomatic of United’s first-half performance and while they found some fight after the interval – having swapped Jones for winger Jadon Sancho and changed to a back four – it was too little, far too late.
And having allowed United their brief spell of encouragement, their chances were snuffed out with another clinical Liverpool move in the 68th minute.
Andy Robertson drove forward unchallenged for 25 yards before offloading to Diaz, who squared for Mane to stroke a left-footed shot past De Gea.
Salah completed the rout when his deflected shot looped over the goalkeeper five minutes from time but the result had not been in doubt for some time.
United midfielder Fernandes said sorry to the travelling fans for their abject performance.
“Obviously it’s a bad result, once again. I apologise to the fans, it will never be enough,” he told Sky Sports. “The fans don’t deserve us to play this way. They deserve more. We have to raise our level higher.”