By Peter Staunton at Old Trafford
The most damning part of this monumental defeat for Manchester United against Liverpool at Old Trafford? That with 20 minutes to go it looked over.
|VIEW FROM OLD TRAFFORD
|This was a Manchester United performance in nothing but name today. Totally clueless from start to finish, it may well go down as not the final nail in the coffin of the David Moyes reign - but perhaps the first.
Two weeks United had to prepare for this match and they had a full squad to pick from. But everything about them today was second rate. Only once was Simon Mignolet pressed into action while, at the back and in midfield, United were chasing shadows.
There were mistakes to put in just about every category. We already know wholesale changes are needed. This will only hasten that process.
For Liverpool, though, they came and performed very well. They passed the ball and nipped in to win it back. They were quicker in their tasks and lighter on their feet. It was 0-3 and could have been more. Whisper it, this could be their year.
That backing won't last forever so long as the results and performances continue to be as poor. David Moyes is aware of the importance of keeping the fans onside. "We're desperate to give the supporters something to shout about," he said.
We know there have been changes at United this season - big changes - but not in a long time have the 11 men on the field looked so forlorn, so miserable, so beaten, And so early too. "It's difficult to explain it," Moyes said."It wasn't what we expected. We just didn't quite get to the standards."
At the end of damaging losses, managers speak of the need to take the positives. From this risible effort, David Moyes, I dare you to rescue a single one.
It is, of course, a total disservice to Liverpool that at the end of a 3-0 win at Old Trafford we come out talking about Manchester United. For the Merseysiders played very well. There was vim and vibrancy about the movement and interplay of Luis Suarez and his lieutenants Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling.
Sturridge in particular was going past United players for fun both with the ball and on the run - and stitched up Nemanja Vidic in winning the third penalty.
Indeed, where Liverpool had sharpness and intuition, United had a lack of speed and a lack of thought. Marouane Fellaini in a dream world would have had a stormer here and shrugged off doubts over his capabilities. Instead, he merely confirmed he is not good enough.
Michael Carrick, his midfield partner, shirked responsibility and could only watch hopelessly as the quicksilver Liverpool forwards took it in turns to play in behind him and launch attacks.
When that part of the team is malfunctioning, and malfunction it did with Vidic looking increasingly like a busted flush, there is an added onus on the attacking contingent. With Adnan Januzaj, Juan Mata, Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney in the lineup, there ought to be goals.
They are, though, bereft of purpose and belief. The latter three remain barely on nodding terms with each other, while Januzaj is the one constant source of optimism in this sorry excuse of a season.
United were without a game in a week before this one. They had no significant injuries to speak of. This was United as fresh as could be with as much time to prepare a game as is conceivably possible in the modern football calendar. This, then, must be regarded as what David Moyes is capable of extracting from his players. "We're not doing as well as we should be. We need to make sure we're creating more and taking more opportunities," Moyes said. "We've got a lot to do."
Compare what he must be thinking to Brendan Rodgers' thoughts on the game.
Liverpool, quite simply, came and laid down a championship marker - with Steven Gerrard a tower of strength in midfield. It will satisfy the Merseysiders to no end to see a pathetic United disappear in their slipstream.
But winning at Old Trafford just ain't as hard as it used to be.