It was just like old times at Liverpool but painful or wonderful to reminisce, depending on the old time in question. The Kop rejoiced in being top of the league as a Liverpool team passed and moved its way to a victory orchestrated by a phenomenal No7. The sight of Cardiff City supporters in revolt, their manager undermined and their owner being driven away in a blacked-out van, however, evoked memories of more recent, darker days at Anfield. Sympathy for Malky Mackay was widespread, with the threat of termination at the time still very real.
The Cardiff manager was never in peril for football reasons and the latest blows to his successful reign were applied by someone who defies reason. Luis Suárez became the first player in Liverpool's history to score at least twice in five consecutive league games at Anfield and he laid on another for Raheem Sterling as Brendan Rodgers' team made their push for the Christmas No1.
Suárez is making anything possible, as his four-month transformation from pariah to recipient of a new £200,000-a-week contract demonstrates, but it is doubtful if even he could alert Vincent Tan to a good thing in football. Tan, the owner who tried to oust the manager who finally gave Cardiff Premier League football and its riches, before common sense broke out on Sunday, was barracked throughout while Mackay was applauded on all sides. "The fans' backing of myself and the team in the way they did, and to hear the Liverpool fans doing the same, is something that will live with me forever," the Scot said.
With slicked-back hair, sunglasses in December and leather gloves, Tan could not have looked any more like the archetypal villain had he sat in the stands stroking a white cat and sent Mackay plummeting from his technical area into a pool full of sharks. Regardless of the chairman, Mehmet Dalman, calling for diplomacy, the owner has drained the enjoyment from Cardiff's supporters in a manner similar to the Liverpool reign of Tom Hicks and George Gillett.
"They are passionate people, the Welsh, they love their football, and I have enjoyed living in the area," said Mackay. "They have really embraced everything we have tried to achieve. I have been open and honest with them about what we have been doing, explaining sometimes difficult decisions that people maybe sometimes don't agree with.
"But in the main what I wanted to do was build something that was built on bricks, not sand, and I think we have taken small steps over two and a half years, while all the time climbing to get a group that I believe can stay in the Premier League."
Asked if he had refused to resign due to the repercussions for his pay-off, Mackay replied: "I have no reason to resign. I enjoy my job, my players enjoy the staff coming in to work with them every day and the fans enjoy the fact that this group of people represent them."
The contrast with the atmosphere and unity around Liverpool could not be more pronounced. Suárez was inevitably the instigator 24 hours after extending his contract at Anfield until 2018, volleying the first inside David Marshall's right-hand post, unselfishly squaring for Sterling to score the second and curling the superb third into the far corner from the edge of the Cardiff area in a 21-minute purple patch before half-time. An inch-perfect pass or touch from Jordan Henderson was involved in each one.
"It adds to that feelgood factor," said Rodgers on Suárez's new contract. "I think you felt on Friday afternoon on Merseyside – or certainly one half of it – there was a real uplifting piece of news. I think supporters now are coming here really looking forward to their football and to seeing their team perform. They know they are going to see a real, world-class operator and also a lot of young players who are developing to a really high level. The club as a whole is in a really good moment. We are on the right path and we have to make sure we keep on it."
Suárez's statistics are as remarkable as his finishing. His 19 goals in 12 games represents an average of 1.58 per game. Over the course of a 38-game season that would yield a return equal to "Dixie" Dean's record of 60 league goals in 1927-28 or 52 goals in 33 games for Suárez, given he missed the opening five league matches through suspension. Either way Alan Shearer and Andy Cole should enjoy their Premier League record of 34 goals in a single season while they can.
"He looks like he can score a hat-trick in every game, doesn't he?" Rodgers added. "He can break it [the Premier League record] because he has got that quality. He will certainly push it close."
Man of the match Luis Suárez (Liverpool)