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Reds produce the perfect birthday present for Kenny Dalglish

“Everybody who supports Liverpool has had a great day, and it owes to the performance and attitude of the players.” Reds boss KENNY DALGLISH savours a birthday to remember, and pays tribute to his players’ spirit and commitment.

Nothing.Alex Ferguson’s assistant Mike Phelan did not carry out his usual post-match engagements.Radio rights holders talkSPORT were also left without any comment from the visitors. Should any of these organisations complain to the Premier League, the governing body will be forced to act.

THERE are few sets of supporters that do spontaneity quite like Liverpool’s.

Thirteen minutes remained at Anfield, with the Reds three goals up, in total control and having welcomed record signing Andy Carroll for his long-awaited debut, when the Kop dug deep into its songbook, and found yet another perfectly-judged ditty.

“Happy Birthday King Kenny” was the cry, and it reverberated around all four corners of the stadium. ]

The Manchester United fans had lost the will to respond, whilst Kenny Dalglish, with a wave and a clenched fist, could not help but smile.

Liverpool’s manager may have turned 60 on Friday, but for him the weekend’s real highlight would always be on Sunday afternoon.

And, eager to play their part in the celebrations, Dalglish’s players gave him the most perfect of belated presents.

United, three points clear at the top of the Premier League table, were outplayed, outfought and, comprehensively, outscored.

The last time Dalglish locked horns with Alex Ferguson at Anfield as Liverpool boss, it was a Peter Beardsley treble which did the damage, leaving the outclassed visitors to scuttle off back down the M62 with their tails between their legs. 

This time, it was Dirk Kuyt who assumed the role of hat-trick hero. The Dutchman’s goals, each of them taken in predatory fashion, were just reward for Liverpool’s endeavours, and cemented further – as if it were needed – his own reputation for producing the goods in the biggest of games.

Not that this was a one-man show. Not by a long chalk.

Kuyt’s hat-trick will inevitably grab the headlines but, as the man himself admitted afterwards, this was a victory of teamwork, of control, of genuine, dazzling quality.

Liverpool bossed Ferguson’s league leaders – a side who have lost just twice in the league all season, don’t forget – in just about every department, and fully deserved the victory – their third in a row against United at Anfield, and their most comprehensive against their fierce rivals in many a year.

Indeed, not since that Beardsley-inspired success, in September 1990, have Reds fans been able to enjoy the closing minutes of a Liverpool-United clash so comfortably.

They were already well on top by the time Kuyt opened the scoring, pouncing from close range after Luis Suarez had twisted beyond four United defenders in the 34th minute, and by the time he had grabbed his second just five minutes later, stooping to head home after a woeful defensive header from Nani, the stuffing had been all but knocked from the visitors.

Kuyt completed his hat-trick - a bet worth 125/1 before the game - in the second half as he pounced after Edwin van der Sar had spilled Suarez’s free-kick, and though Javier Hernandez’s late header added a semblance of respectability to the scoreline for United, it did little to disguise the Reds’ dominance.

United fans have long taunted their Liverpool counterparts with their song about Diego Forlan and Scousers crying, but they might have to shelve that particular chant now, having been left reeling here by another Uruguyan. Suarez, put simply, was sensational.

Involved heavily in all three goals, the former Ajax man was at the heart of everything good about Liverpool’s performance. Combining work-rate with skill, one of the hardest things to do in top-level football, he tormented the United backline all afternoon.

He was not the only one; Kuyt provided the goals, Maxi Rodriguez and Raul Meireles provided bright and inventive support, whilst Lucas Leiva, alongside skipper Steven Gerrard, produced a midfield masterclass, leaving the vaunted duo of Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes very much in the shade.

There were nervy moments – Meireles was twice asked to clear off the line, albeit comfortably, from Dimitar Berbatov, and the Bulgarian skimmed a volley off the outside of Pepe Reina’s post, for example – but United rarely looked like breaching a defence marshalled superbly by Martin Skrtel and Sotirios Kyrgiakos – who replaced a limping Fabio Aurelio early on. The subdued performances, and sulky demeanours, of Berbatov and Wayne Rooney spoke volumes.

Indeed, Liverpool might have had more. Gerrard was inches away with a couple of 25-yarders, Suarez gave Wes Brown and Chris Smalling nightmares – Lord only knows how long Nemanja Vidic would have lasted against him – and Kuyt threatened to grab himself a fourth with an ambitious volley.

But as it was, three was enough. Liverpool fans are clever enough to know that one result does not a season make, and that there are still 18 points separating the sides in the table, but for now they care little.

This weekend was all about giving Dalglish the birthday he craved, and a rampant Reds managed to do just that. It seems life begins at 60 for the King, after all.

LIVERPOOL(4-3-2-1): Reina, Johnson, Carragher, Skrtel, Aurelio (Kyrgiakos 24), Lucas, Gerrard, Maxi Meireles (Carroll 74), Suarez (Cole 89), Kuyt Not used: Gulacsi, Spearing, Poulsen, Ngog.

MANCHESTER UTD (4-4-2): Van der Sar, Rafael (O’Shea 76), Smalling, Brown, Evra, Nani (Hernandez 45), Carrick, Scholes (Fletcher 83), Giggs, Rooney, Berbatov Not used: Kuszczak, Fabio, Gibson, Obertan.

GOALS: Kuyt (34, 39, 65)

CARDS: Booked – Liverpool: Carragher (45), Skrtel (45). Manchester Utd: Van der Sar (45), Rafael (45), Scholes (82)

REFEREE: Phil Dowd (Stoke)

ATTENDANCE: (44,753)

Copyright  - Liverpool Echo


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