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Page last updated at 15:24 GMT, Sunday, 23 March 2008

Man Utd 3-0 Liverpool

By Chris Bevan

Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring United's second goal
Ronaldo celebrates after scoring United's second goal

Manchester United outclassed 10-man Liverpool to strengthen their position at the top of the Premier League table.

Wes Brown put United ahead from Wayne Rooney's cross before Liverpool's hopes were hit when Javier Mascherano was sent off for dissent before the break.

Pepe Reina made some great saves but he was at fault when Cristiano Ronaldo headed home United's second and Nani's fine finish completed an emphatic win.

Chelsea's victory over Arsenal leaves United five points clear at the top.

Sunday's results leave United in pole position to retain their title with seven games of the season to go but the main talking point after this match was Mascherano's dismissal.

The Argentine midfielder, who had been booked early on for a wild challenge on Paul Scholes, foolishly chose to continue an argument that his team-mate Fernando Torres had started with referee Steve Bennett over a series of challenges by United players.

In a week dominated by discussion of Ashley Cole's conduct towards the officials during Chelsea's draw with Tottenham on Wednesday, the spotlight was always going to be on how Bennett reacted here.


Torres had already been booked for dissent when Mascherano got involved so, if Bennett was to be consistent, he had no choice but to produce another yellow card.

The decision further infuriated Mascherano, who had to be escorted off the pitch, and his manager Rafa Benitez was also left angry.

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Interview: Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez

It also virtually ended his side's hopes of getting anything from the game, as United had dominated even when Liverpool had 11 men on the pitch.

Sir Alex Ferguson's men had created all the best chances in the opening period and only some superb saves by Reina kept the home side at bay.

United could have had a penalty when Jamie Carragher clipped Rooney in the area but the striker stayed on his feet and his eventual shot was saved by the Spaniard.

Reina came to the rescue again when Paul Scholes' free-kick caught the Liverpool defence napping, collecting the ball after Rooney failed to control it.

The Reds' best spell followed when they at last threatened Edwin van der Sar's goal.

Brown met Rooney's cross to score past Reina
Brown met Rooney's cross to score past Reina

Fabiano Aurelio sliced his shot wide when well placed inside the area, while Steven Gerrard had a rasping effort deflected over soon after.

But United were still threatening themselves and Ronaldo hit the post from a Ryan Giggs free-kick, only to be wrongly ruled offside, before Reina almost fumbled Giggs' cross into his own net.

The Liverpool defence was struggling with any high balls played into the area and it was no great surprise when United took the lead through that route.

Martin Skrtel did not attempt to reach Rooney's cross and Brown beat Reina to the ball, which looped into the net off his back.

Mascherano's red card meant Liverpool had it all to do after the break and, if not for their goalkeeper, they would have been dead and buried.

Scholes' clever lob sent Ronaldo clear but Reina came out to block and, after watching Ronaldo's free-kick fly narrowly wide, he saved his side again with an instinctive stop from Rooney.

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Interview: Man Utd assistant coach Carlos Queiroz

Reina made another instinctive save to deny United substitute Carlos Tevez after Alvaro Arbeloa had inadvertently steered the ball into the striker's path.

He also did brilliantly to push away Ronaldo's shot but will not enjoy watching a replay of the resultant corner, from which the Portuguese star rose above him to head home.

Nani's thumping finish from the edge of the area only underlined United's superiority as Liverpool's seven-game winning run came to an abrupt halt.

Man Utd: Van der Sar, Brown, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Ronaldo, Scholes, Carrick, Anderson (Tevez 73), Giggs (Nani 73), Rooney.
Subs Not Used: Kuszczak, Hargreaves, O'Shea.

Booked: Ferdinand.

Goals: Brown 34, Ronaldo 79, Nani 81.

Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Skrtel, Aurelio, Mascherano, Alonso, Kuyt, Gerrard, Babel (Benayoun 66), Torres (Riise 82).
Subs Not Used: Itandje, Hyypia, Crouch.

Sent Off: Mascherano (44).

Booked: Mascherano, Torres, Arbeloa.

Att: 76,000

Ref: Steve Bennett (Kent).

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Wayne Rooney 7.53 (on 90 minutes).

  • Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

  • see also
    Title race still alive - Ferguson
    23 Mar 08 |  Premier League
    Premier League as it happened
    23 Mar 08 |  Premier League
    Benitez backs sent-off Mascherano
    23 Mar 08 |  Premier League
    Chelsea 2-1 Arsenal
    23 Mar 08 |  Premier League
    Sunday's football photos
    23 Mar 08 |  Football
    How to watch Match of the Day
    08 Oct 07 |  Match of the Day

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