Liverpool Gerrard Suarez
Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard celebrates with teammates after scoring against Manchester United, 16 March. Reuters

Three penalties, two of them scored by the right boot of Steven Gerrard, a Luis Suarez goal - of course there was - and a thorough, absolute barracking by Liverpool of English Premier League champions Manchester United.

It was one of those derbies yet again, with Liverpool at the-not-anymore-a-fortress Old Trafford bringing that pizzazz to show in some style, overwhelming a Man United side that look shorn of confidence, quality, fight, unity......

On a day when United needed to step up and show they can make a go of it for the top four position, it was Liverpool who showed they are title contenders, and then some, in a brilliant performance against their biggest rivals, with Captain Cool Gerrard and Suarez scoring the goals to help their side to an emphatic 3-0 victory. United skipper Nemanja Vidic also red in a Manchester United vs Liverpool clash for the fourth time - albeit a harsh one as Daniel Sturridge took a leaf out of Divers 101.

The gap between Liverpool and United is 14 points now, and a change of guard with it also seems likely, with David Moyes looking more and more like the character you feel sorry for at the end of a movie - United fans might have a different feeling towards the manager, of course.

Liverpool got off to a bright start, making the Manchester United defence stay on their toes right from the off as Sturridge and Suarez came close in the first couple of minutes, with the Uruguayan his usual pestering, unrelenting self, barging and tricking his way into the box and raising those heartbeats of the home side's defenders to unreasonable levels.

The United plan was pretty evident really, to stay as compact as possible and allow as little space in behind for the pacey SSS trio - Suarez, Sturridge and Sterling.

However, the flipside of that strategy was the lack of appetite going forward, with United, little pace in their lineup, struggling to break free when they did get the ball, which was not too often in the first half.

Liverpool, playing a diamond in midfield, had full control of the game, and looked like the only team likely to score barring a couple of decent chances here or there for the home team. The confidence was evident in this Brendan Rodgers-guided side, with the fortnight's worth rest also standing them in good stead.

After a couple of probes here and there Liverpool's forward play paid dividends a little past the half hour. Sturridge received the ball on the right, took his time and picked out a ball to Luis Suarez at the far post.

The Liverpool striker is not currently one of the best around for no reason, and a delightful first touch completely caught out Oh-no-I'm-in-trouble-here Rafael, who had just received a yellow card for a rash challenge on Gerrard, with the right-back sticking his hand out to prevent the ball from going away from him and leaving Mark Clattenburg with little choice but to point to the spot.

Gerrard, as Liverpool as you can possible get, stepped up and there was never any doubt where the ball was ending up, with the midfielder thumping the ball into the side netting while sending David De Gea the wrong way.

United had one bright moment going forward in the first half, and it came a little after the opening goal, as Januzaj, off a nice turn, sent Rafael through down the right. The Brazilian, looking to make amends for the conceded penalty, picked out a perfect ball for Wayne Rooney, whose first-time shot from the edge of the box was well kept out by Simon Mignolet, who was otherwise a mere spectator.

Off the rebound, Rooney had another crack at goal, only to see Martin Skrtel put his body on the line with a big block.

While Rooney was trying his best to pull United back into the game, the other three of United's Fantastic Four were very much in the periphery. Robin Van Persie looked like he did not want to be there, Juan Mata just could not get into the game, try as he might, and Januzaj could not find that sweeping and weaving quality down the wings.

Luis Suarez Liverpool
Luis Suarez was his usual menacing best for Liverpool. Reuters

The game was pretty much over seconds after the referee blew the whistle to start the second half as Phil Jones barged into Joe Allen like the Incredible Hulk inside the penalty area and Gerrard did what he does best, place the ball into the net from the spot.

This United team going forward currently look like the Madagascar cast lost and clueless, marooned on an island with no escape, and a goal to cut the deficit never looked like coming.

The home team did have a couple of penalty appeals turned down, though, although you could understand both those instances not being given - one for an inadvertent handball on Glen Johnson and the other for a challenge on Rooney by Skrtel, when it looked more like the United forward jumped into the Liverpool defender.

With Liverpool's pace going forward at the other end, they were always going to be dangerous on the counter and after a couple of half-chances went abegging, the Reds were awarded a remarkable third penalty of the game - Sturridge deciding to rub salt into the United wounds by diving under an unnecessary challenge from Vidic, who did not touch the Liverpool forward, and was absolutely incensed when the penalty was given, with Clattenburg also showing the skipper a second yellow card and with it a red.

Justice was in a way done, with Gerrard, on a hat-trick, missing the spot-kick, sending De Gea the wrong way, but striking the base of the post. It mattered little, though, as Suarez put the proverbial icing on the wonderfully sweet cake with a typical finish with his left foot late on.

United as down and out as you can possibly get, looking like the shadow's shadow of the team that romped to the title last season. Something needs to change - whether that is the manager or something else -- or the freefall could just continue.

For Liverpool, now only four points behind leaders Chelsea, with a game in hand, this result is yet another sign of their capabilities to challenge for the title - Gerrard's first Premier League medal might just be on its way, you know.

[Read the Tottenham vs Arsenal report HERE]