For Manchester United and David Moyes there is probably only one redeeming feature and it is that the club's supporters have not been tempted into open mutiny. Not yet anyway. Even now, outplayed by their oldest rivals and drifting further into mediocrity, the frustration and anger manifested itself only in a loud, defiant show of support. Moyes is a lucky man. At another club they would be hounding him out by now.
Increasingly, though, there is the sense they are supporting the team, rather than necessarily the manager. United, once again, were abysmal, completely out-done by a Liverpool side that passed the ball with speed and intelligence and could easily have made it a more harrowing ordeal for their opponents.
Steven Gerrard struck the right-hand post when he had the chance to make it a hat-trick of penalties and a game Wayne Rooney later described as a "nightmare" can be accurately gauged by the fact David de Gea was the one man in United's colours to emerge with any distinction. Rooney, like Moyes, praised United's crowd for sticking by the team, bar that moment when Marouane Fellaini was substituted to rebellious cheers. Yet it was probably a good deal to do with the fact the fans here would not want to lose face in front of the old enemy. The interesting thing will be if there is another performance like this against Olympiakos on Wednesday.
Brendan Rodgers was certainly not exaggerating when he said Liverpool's dominance deserved more than just one other goal, clipped in by Luis Suárez after Nemanja Vidic's red card had left United in even more disarray. There is now a 43-point swing in Liverpool's favour between these sides over the last year and, on this evidence, nobody should assume their title challenge will simply melt away. Rodgers' team are four points behind Chelsea, with a game in hand and still have to play them at Anfield. He is right, strictly speaking, to cite Chelsea and Manchester City as more likely champions but Liverpool have confidence and momentum. "We're going to win the league," their supporters were singing.
Tactically superior, Rodgers had set up his team with a midfield diamond, with Raheem Sterling operating at its tip, just behind Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, because the Liverpool manager had noticed United's centre-halves "tend to drop off", leaving space to run at them. That front three wreaked havoc and the astonishing thing is Liverpool might actually have had four penalties given that early attack when Phil Jones and Fellaini had a nibble at Suarez's ankles.
Gerrard was superb in a team shimmering with confidence but Rodgers also identified Jordan Henderson and Joe Allen for special acclaim and his eyes lit up when Jon Flanagan's name was mentioned. At one point Liverpool's young, raw full-back could be seen dribbling round Juan Mata.
United did not even look close to being a fully coherent team and, in the worst moments, seemed to have forgotten everything that is expected of them inside this stadium. No side with Rooney, Mata, Robin van Persie and Adnan Januzaj in its frontline should be this bereft of ideas, or poor on the ball. Yet this is not a one-off. It was both shocking, yet not absolutely surprising, and the indignities piled up. "David Moyes is a football genius," could be heard from the away end. It has been the soundtrack to United's season and it was followed by Rodgers bringing up the fact Moyes had billed Liverpool beforehand as favourites. "I would never say that at Liverpool even if we were bottom," he said. Nor would Sir Alex Ferguson.
United had legitimate grievances about Vidic's red card but they finished the match with greater concerns. They were lucky, too, that the referee, Mark Clattenburg, opted to show leniency to Rafael da Silva after his handball had given Gerrard his first chance from 12 yards. Rafael had already been booked for a scything challenge on the Liverpool captain. Handball is not a mandatory yellow card but a deliberate one, preventing Suárez from going round him, really ought to have seen Clattenburg reaching for his pocket again.
For Liverpool, it did not hugely matter. Mata and Fellaini, Moyes' two big signings, were overrun whereas Januzaj had his worst game of the season. Rooney kept going but it defies belief that his partnership with Van Persie is so disjointed. Liverpool were superior in every department.
Gerrard's second penalty arrived inside the opening minute of the second half, after Jones had barged over Allen, running on to Henderson's pass. Just like the first, Gerrard took it brilliantly to De Gea's left, narrowly inside the post. On the third occasion he went the other way and misjudged his shot.
United were incensed because Sturridge appeared to dive over Vidic's sprawling challenge and Rodgers admitted it was "harsh" on the defender. But the real story here was not of injustice or anything to do with Clattenburg's officiating. It was of the confirmation that Liverpool have caught, and overhauled, the team they dislike the most and are now in the process of leaving them behind. United were hopelessly lost in those final exchanges, culminating in Suárez controlling Sturridge's miscued shot to complete the home side's misery. The volume inside Old Trafford actually went up. But the crowd will not always be this kind.
Man of the match Steven Gerrard (Liverpool)