By the end, the Liverpool fans were pointing at Manchester United and laughing. “Don’t sack Mourinho," they chanted from the home end as their side closed out a 3-1 win which could easily have been more one-sided.
At times it felt like three goals going on 100 for Jurgen Klopp’s men as Jose Mourinho proved himself to be clueless in how to stop the Liverpool onslaught. In total, United had just six shots at goal in the 90 minutes to an incredible 36 from the Merseysiders.
United, unsurprisingly, had come to spoil from the off, but that was only ever likely to get them so far. They were hammered for most of the opening half-hour, got back into the game through sheer luck and couldn’t hold on when it mattered late in the day.
Mourinho had made 10 changes to the side which had been embarrassed by Valencia in midweek but it would do nothing to tone down the shade of red in United faces after full-time here.
The decision not to call upon the benched Paul Pogba will rankle with many, but the Frenchman’s performances of late have given his supporters little in the way of an argument. Perhaps had he started there may have been a greater emphasis in the midfield third to put a foot on the ball, but in truth it is highly unlikely.
At this moment in time, this is just where United are. With or without Pogba, they have been nowhere near good enough this season to be considered among the leading lights in the Premier League. And on Sunday, Liverpool showed exactly how big the gap is.
For Sadio Mane’s opener, Eric Bailly had chased into midfield to attempt to deal with Roberto Firmino, and Ashley Young had to step across to deal with the danger. The England full-back then found himself on the back foot as the Senegalese ran on to Fabinho’s ball to slot past an isolated David de Gea.
United were fortunate to be back on level terms within 10 minutes as Alisson failed to deal with a straight-forward low cross from Romelu Lukaku, and Jesse Lingard swept home, but having pegged back their high-flying hosts United looked every bit as likely to cause trouble as Liverpool in the remainder of the first half.
But after the break they reverted to type and spent too long inviting Liverpool onto them to not eventually be undone. While it is true that both of the goals Xherdan Shaqiri scored after coming on as a substitute owed much to deflections, United had ridden their luck for far too long. Hand over so much possession so willingly, and at some point it will cost you.
Mourinho will doubtless point to his string of injury concerns as one of the factors behind their current state of affairs, with Chris Smalling’s withdrawal during the Anfield warm-up being the latest setback, but too much of this result and this entire malaise are down to the regime over which he has presided.
This is a mess of United’s making and nobody else’s. Their 19-point deficit behind Liverpool at the top of the league is reflective of what a state the one-time giants of Old Trafford have got themselves into.
And beyond that, they don’t look any more likely to narrow that gap now than they did in August when the situation was so much more manageable.
There is now almost no hope of United making the top four, and they have never looked more inferior than they did at Anfield on Sunday.