Bitter ending at Anfield, Liverpool v Man Utd 3-1
Dirk Kuyt hit a hat-trick as Liverpool dented Manchester United’s title hopes with a 3-1 victory over their bitter rivals at Anfield.
Kuyt struck twice in quick succession in the first half and the Dutch forward completed his treble after the break to hand United their second defeat in the space of a week after the leaders’ 2-1 loss at Chelsea on Tuesday.
Javier Hernandez reduced the deficit in stoppage time but United, who had only lost one league match this season before the start of this week, are now just three points ahead of second placed Arsenal, having played a game more than the Gunners.
Kuyt’s hat-trick was the first for a Liverpool player against United since Peter Beardsley’s treble in a 4-0 win back in September 1990 when Kenny Dalglish was first in charge of the Reds, but it was a sublime display from Luis Suarez that inspired the hosts.
United were without first-choice centre-backs Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand and it showed as Liverpool drew first blood in the 34th minute thanks to a superb piece of skill from Suarez.
The former Ajax forward’s surging run took him past three United defenders before he poked the ball through Edwin Van der Sar’s legs for Kuyt to tap-in from barely a yard out.
United were rocked by that piece of Suarez magic and Dalglish’s side increased their lead four minutes later when a misdirected header from Nani confused his defence and allowed Kuyt to head home from close range.
Tempers boiled over after that and Jamie Carragher was lucky to avoid a red card for a lunge on Nani that led the United winger to be stretchered off, while Rafael da Silva also sparked angry scenes with a nasty foul on Martin Skrtel.
Kuyt sealed Liverpool’s first win over United in four attempts with a simple finish after a fumble by Van der Sar from Suarez’s free-kick in the 65th minute.
There was still time for Dalglish to send on club record signing Andy Carroll for the England striker’s first appearance since his £35 million move from Newcastle before Hernandez headed in from a Ryan Giggs cross.