Belfast Telegraph

In Pictures: Dirk Kuyt hat-trick sinks woeful Manchester United

Liverpool 3 Manchester United 1: The Kop serenaded Kenny Dalglish with a rendition of Happy Birthday. The King has just about seen and done it all at Anfield, but even this was new for him.

Yesterday's gesture to mark his 60th, which actually took place on Friday, seemed to genuinely touch the Scot as he waved to the fans in response.

It's certainly been a case of many happy returns for all concerned at Liverpool, since Dalglish's comeback as manager in January.

Pride has been restored.

The club's position in the table is no longer a total embarrassment. And the team have shown that on one-off occasions they can compete with and beat the best in the Premier League.

Last month Dalglish's side went to Chelsea and won 1-0 — it was a result that brought immense satisfaction to Liverpool followers, especially with their one time hero turned £50 million Blue villain Fernando Torres swept away in a red tide of commitment and enthusiasm.

That was enjoyable, but for the Scousers there's nothing quite like beating Manchester United. At Anfield yesterday, Liverpool didn't just beat Sir Alex Ferguson's side, they destroyed them.

By the end the electronic scoreboard beside the Kop read 3-1 to the home side, but that didn't give a true reflection of play, because from the opening exchanges there was only one team who looked like coming out on top.

And it wasn't the side chasing the title. That would be number 19, just in case anyone out there doesn't know.

United were dreadful. Really, really poor.

Had they lost 4-0, just as they did when Dalglish last took on United at Anfield when in charge of the Merseysiders first time around, that would have been about right. Peter Beardsley scored a hat-trick in that romp. Dirk Kuyt helped himself to a treble 21 years on.

I've criticised Kuyt in the past because on occasion an elephant has a better touch controlling a beach ball in a hurricane, but no-one can never ever fault his outstanding work-rate.

He puts in the hard yards, which is appreciated by his team-mates, and yesterday all that effort was rewarded with three of the easiest goals he will ever score.

After the magnificent Luis Suarez had mesmerised the United defenders in the area, Kuyt poked home with the ball on the line to give Liverpool a deserved lead.

Number two came courtesy of a terrible mistake from Nani, whose misplaced header allowed the Dutchman to nod home.

And the third, after the break, arrived when Edwin van der Sar failed to hold a Suarez free-kick and Kuyt gleefully struck in front of the Kop.

The final goal summed up the match with United players standing still as the Liverpool ace reacted quickest.

Ferguson may not have said anything to the media after the game, but I'm sure he will have shouted plenty at his players, who quite simply didn't compete with their fierce rivals.

It was a surrender by the visitors with the white flag raised long before Javier Hernandez scored an undeserved consolation in injury time.

Ryan Giggs, surpassing Bobby Charlton's league appearance record for United, and Paul Scholes were as ineffective as I can remember them, while Wayne Rooney, constantly berated by the home fans, delivered another sub-standard display on the road.

Dimitar Berbatov, who scored a hat-trick in the corresponding fixture at Old Trafford, had a few impressive moments including hitting the post from distance, but like just about every United player on the pitch lacked the fire, desire and character you need in games like this.

In contrast Liverpool had those qualities all over the park with the highly skilled and highly motivated Suarez and Kuyt tormenting United's Wes Brown and Chris Smalling — how the visitors missed the suspended captain Nemanja Vidic.

Raul Meireles and Lucas deserve credit too, along with captain Steven Gerrard, who not looking fully fit, played the Clark Kent strong and steady role in midfield rather than donning his superman cape.

He didn't need to. Nor did Jamie Carragher need to stamp on Nani's leg just before the break. The Liverpool defender was fortunate not to be red carded as the Portuguese winger was carried off, crying his eyes out.

There was no sympathy inside Anfield though for a player considered more adept at diving than Tom Daley. Nani didn't do himself any favours by jumping up after the foul in an attempt to get Carragher dismissed before falling in a heap again.

He was down and out.

United's title challenge hasn't reached that stage yet, but after defeats to Chelsea and Liverpool in the last week, there is no doubt that they are rocking.

Liverpool will feel under Dalglish they can go on a roll.

Already Suarez has shown that he is a special talent and if his strike partnership with fellow January transfer window signing Andy Carroll takes off, Liverpool fans will be in for an exciting end to the current campaign.

Carroll made his debut as a substitute late on against United, receiving an astonishing welcome which should do his confidence no harm at all.

He has a big part to play in his new club's future.

The Liverpool fans believe that as long as King Kenny is around, it will be a bright one.

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