Paul Scholes scored on his 500th appearance to set Manchester United on their way to a deserved victory over Liverpool at Old Trafford.
Scholes scored his 132nd goal for Manchester United
The midfielder forced the ball home after keeper Jose Reina had got a hand to his initial shot after 39 minutes.
That came after Dirk Kuyt had wasted Liverpool's best effort with a free header from Mark Gonzalez's cross.
Rio Ferdinand smashed in a second to make it 2-0 after 66 minutes as United returned to the top of the Premiership.
It leaves Liverpool trailing their bitter rivals by 11 points, but on the evidence of this display, the Reds cannot claim the gap is deceptive.
United, watched by a record crowd of 75,828, were never at their best but the performance was still enough to cope with an uninspiring Liverpool.
With only Kuyt up front, Liverpool set out to stifle United in midfield, making for a scrappy opening to the game.
The hosts had the better of the first half, with Louis Saha looking particularly dangerous up front, but Liverpool did have their chances.
After only seven minutes, Kuyt stole into the box unmarked but Steven Gerrard's cross was too high.
Kuyt was again involved on the half-hour mark when Gonzalez rocketed past Ferdinand on the left and crossed for the Dutch striker, who headed too close to United keeper Edwin van der Sar.
While Gonzalez's speed was impressive, his shooting was far less so, the winger twice fluffing long-range efforts, and a minute after his second effort, United went ahead.
Scholes found Wayne Rooney before stealing into the box to get on the end of Ryan Giggs' cross.
Reina half-stopped his initial shot but the midfielder followed up to make sure of his 132nd goal for the club.
The Liverpool keeper dived at full stretch to prevent Saha making it 2-0 before the interval and it was a buoyant United who walked in at the break.
Rafael Benitez watched only five minutes of the second half before making his first substitution, bringing on Jermaine Pennant for Gonzalez.
That allowed Gerrard to move into the centre but the changes failed to inspire Liverpool and United scored a deserved second goal after 66 minutes.
Jamie Carragher, injured in a tackle minutes earlier, mis-hit his clearance and the ball came to Ferdinand, who sidestepped John Arne Riise and confidently swept the ball into the top corner.
Benitez introduced Peter Crouch as Liverpool looked desperately for a spark of inspiration but it failed to materialise as United easily held on.
Man Utd: Van der Sar, Neville (O'Shea 78), Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra (Brown 90), Fletcher, Carrick, Scholes, Giggs, Rooney, Saha.
Subs Not Used: Kuszczak, Ronaldo, Solskjaer.
Goals: Scholes 39, Ferdinand 66.
Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Hyypia, Carragher, Riise, Gerrard, Sissoko, Alonso (Crouch 70), Gonzalez (Pennant 52), Luis Garcia, Kuyt.
Subs Not Used: Dudek, Warnock, Paletta.
Booked: Sissoko, Finnan, Crouch.
Ref: G Poll (Hertfordshire).