Kuyt (right) heads in Liverpool's second from Nani's poor backwards header
By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer at Anfield
Dirk Kuyt's hat-trick ensured the Premier League title race remains wide open as Liverpool swept Manchester United aside at Anfield.
Sir Alex Ferguson may have been encouraged by Arsenal's failure to beat Sunderland on Saturday and the opportunity to extend their lead at the top of the table - but this ended as a day of abject misery for United as they slumped to their second successive defeat.
United's twin setbacks, with this loss following hard on the heels of defeat at Chelsea, mean they remain only three points ahead of Arsenal, with Arsene Wenger's side having played a game less.
Kuyt was the hero as he struck the first treble by a Liverpool player against United since Peter Beardsley in 1990 and he found a willing and outstanding accomplice in £23m Uruguayan Luis Suarez.
Suarez's stunning sleight of foot took out three United defenders and set up a simple opener for Kuyt after 34 minutes and it was also Suarez's cross that Nani inexplicably headed into the Dutch striker's path for the second goal just before the interval.
Win over Man Utd is season highlight - Dalglish
Nani was a central figure in shameful scenes right on half-time. He was felled by a crude challenge by Jamie Carragher that eventually required the Portuguese winger to be stretchered off, with Liverpool and United players confronting each other in the angry aftermath of the incident.
This was followed by Rafael's reckless tackle on Lucas and more confrontation - a passage of play that saw referee Phil Dowd exercise extreme leniency in not sending off both Carragher and United's Brazilian defender.
Kuyt got his and Liverpool's third after 65 minutes when Edwin Van der Sar failed to hold the dangerous Suarez's free-kick.
The three-goal cushion allowed Dalglish to give striker Andy Carroll a late run-out for his debut following his £35m move from Newcastle United.
Javier Hernandez pulled a goal back for United in injury time but this will have been of no consolation to Ferguson after 90 minutes in which the Premier League pace-setters - admittedly robbed of the towering defensive figures of injured Rio Ferdinand and suspended Nemanja Vidic - looked vulnerable and overpowered in all areas.
For Liverpool boss Dalglish, this was the perfect belated present after he celebrated his 60th birthday on Friday and only increased the strength of his claims to land the manager's job on a permanent basis, with that eventual appointment surely nothing more than a formality.
Liverpool were able to put Carroll on the bench for the first time since his move from Newcastle, a decision perhaps encouraged by the absence of Ferdinand and Vidic from United's defence.
But it was Suarez who was a constant source of threat to United, almost pouncing in the second minute when he arrived unmarked on the end of Kuyt's cross but he was unable to control his finish and United escaped.
Liverpool's brisk start prompted United into a response and keeper Pepe Reina was grateful to see Dimitar Berbatov's dipping long-range drive glance off the outside of the post as he scrambled across his goal.
Hat-trick hero Kuyt enjoying striker role
Dalglish had to reshape his defence after 25 minutes when the injury-prone Fabio Aurelio went down clutching his hamstring and was replaced by Sotirios Kyrgiakos. The Greek moved to partner Martin Skrtel in central defence, with Carragher moving to right-back and Glen Johnson to the opposite flank.
And as Liverpool reorganised they were almost punished but Raul Meireles was able to smuggle Wes Brown's header off the line following a corner.
Suarez's quick feet inside the area always threatened to cause havoc and so it proved as Liverpool took the lead after 34 minutes. United's defenders, in the shape of Rafael, Michael Carrick and Brown, collapsed like a house of cards as the Uruguayan weaved his way towards goal.
He prodded the ball past Van der Sar towards goal and Kuyt ran in to make sure from a matter of inches as United appealed in vain for offside.
A calamitous piece of defending from Nani gift-wrapped Kuyt his and Liverpool's second five minutes later. Nani rose to meet Suarez's cross in the area, only to succeed in directing it perfectly into the path of Kuyt in the six-yard area for a simple headed finish.
There was an ugly end to the half when both Carragher and Rafael were fortunate to escape with only yellow cards for awful challenges. Carragher's cynical touchline lunge on Nani prompted a flare-up between players from both sides before the winger was stretchered off.
And as tempers continued to boil Maxi Rodriguez made a thigh-high, studs-up lunge on Rafael, who immediately took out his frustrations on Lucas with a wild tackle. Once again it prompted unseemly exchanges before referee Dowd attempted to restore some sort of order by booking the United defender, while Rodriguez went unpunished.
Hernandez replaced the stricken Nani and United almost worked their way back into contention only for Meireles to clear Berbatov's header off the line early in the second half.
Meireles then showed his attacking qualities with a perfectly timed run on to Kuyt's pass only to be denied by Van der Sar.
But the United keeper was at fault as Liverpool extended their lead and Kuyt completed his hat-trick after 65 minutes. Suarez's free-kick was low and awkward but Van der Sar should have held on - and once he fumbled - Kuyt completed the formalities with a poacher's finish.
As The Kop revelled in Liverpool's victory and United's discomfort, Dalglish felt able to introduce Carroll for his debut and the striker received a rapturous reception around Anfield.
Liverpool cruised home and even the sight of Hernandez scoring deep into stoppage time could not stop wild celebrations sweeping around Anfield at the final whistle.
90:00+3:26 The game is over, as the referee blows his whistle.
90:00+3:13 The ball is crossed by Dimitar Berbatov, Glen Johnson manages to make a clearance.
90:00+1:08 The assist for the goal came from Ryan Giggs.
90:00+1:08 GOAL - Javier Hernandez:Liverpool 3 - 1 Man Utd Javier Hernandez finds the back of the net with a headed goal from inside the penalty area. Liverpool 3-1 Man Utd.
88:32 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Luis Suarez by Patrice Evra. Leiva Lucas restarts play with the free kick. Shot
from just outside the box by Steven Gerrard misses to the right of the target.
88:32 Substitution Luis Suarez leaves the field to be replaced by Joe Cole.
87:12 Outswinging corner taken by Ryan Giggs from the left by-line played to the near post, Header from deep inside the penalty
area by John O'Shea goes harmlessly over the crossbar.
86:48 Wayne Rooney takes a shot. Jose Reina makes a save. The ball is sent over by John O'Shea, Michael Carrick takes a shot. Steven
Gerrard gets a block in.
85:51 Effort on goal by Luis Suarez from inside the penalty box misses to the right of the target.
84:12 Long range effort from Steven Gerrard misses to the left of the target.
82:51 Paul Scholes gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Luis Suarez. The free kick is swung in right-footed by Leiva
82:51 Substitution Darren Fletcher comes on in place of Paul Scholes.
82:51 Booking Paul Scholes receives a caution.
81:52 Ryan Giggs takes a inswinging corner to the near post, Steven Gerrard manages to make a clearance.
80:03 The ball is swung over by John O'Shea, clearance by Sotirios Kyrgiakos.
78:14 Dirk Kuyt produces a right-footed shot from just outside the box that misses to the right of the net.
76:15 Foul by Rodriguez Maxi on Dimitar Berbatov, free kick awarded. Free kick crossed by Ryan Giggs.
75:03 Leiva Lucas gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Wayne Rooney. Direct strike on goal from the free kick comes
in from Wayne Rooney. The ball is sent over by Ryan Giggs, Sotirios Kyrgiakos manages to make a clearance. The ball is crossed
by Dimitar Berbatov, Steven Gerrard manages to make a clearance.
75:03 Substitution John O'Shea on for Rafael Da Silva.
74:11 Andrew Carroll takes a shot. Comfortable save by Edwin Van der Sar. Michael Carrick is penalised for a handball. Jamie Carragher
takes the free kick.
73:05 Luis Suarez fouled by Patrice Evra, the ref awards a free kick. Jamie Carragher takes the free kick.
73:05 Substitution Andrew Carroll comes on in place of Raul Meireles.
71:32 The ball is sent over by Michael Carrick.
71:14 Wayne Rooney sends in a cross, clearance made by Sotirios Kyrgiakos.
69:20 The referee blows for offside. Jose Reina restarts play with the free kick.
69:02 Michael Carrick fouled by Steven Gerrard, the ref awards a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Paul Scholes.
67:54 Inswinging corner taken by Raul Meireles from the left by-line, Chris Smalling manages to make a clearance.
67:15 Chris Smalling gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Dirk Kuyt. Sotirios Kyrgiakos takes the free kick.
64:14 Dirk Kuyt fouled by Wes Brown, the ref awards a free kick. Strike on goal comes in from Luis Suarez from the free kick, Edwin
Van der Sar makes a save. Luis Suarez provided the assist for the goal.
64:14 GOAL - Dirk Kuyt:Liverpool 3 - 0 Man Utd Dirk Kuyt scores a goal from close range to the top right corner of the goal. Liverpool 3-0 Man Utd.
62:46 The ball is swung over by Wayne Rooney.
61:49 Raul Meireles takes a shot. Save by Edwin Van der Sar.
58:46 Dimitar Berbatov fouled by Sotirios Kyrgiakos, the ref awards a free kick. Ryan Giggs fires a strike on goal direct from the
57:28 Corner from right by-line taken by Ryan Giggs. Wayne Rooney crosses the ball, Dimitar Berbatov takes a shot. Raul Meireles
manages to make a clearance.
56:02 The ball is crossed by Rafael Da Silva, clearance by Sotirios Kyrgiakos.
54:40 Unfair challenge on Javier Hernandez by Martin Skrtel results in a free kick. Paul Scholes takes the direct free kick.
54:07 Effort on goal by Ryan Giggs from just inside the area clears the bar.
52:57 Dirk Kuyt concedes a free kick for a foul on Patrice Evra. Free kick taken by Patrice Evra.
52:34 The ball is swung over by Michael Carrick, Martin Skrtel manages to make a clearance. The ball is delivered by Rafael Da Silva,
clearance by Leiva Lucas.
52:04 Leiva Lucas challenges Wayne Rooney unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick taken by Wayne Rooney.
48:58 Centre by Dimitar Berbatov, Shot by Javier Hernandez from deep inside the penalty area misses to the right of the target.
48:43 A cross is delivered by Raul Meireles, save made by Edwin Van der Sar.
48:18 Steven Gerrard takes a shot. Blocked by Wes Brown.
47:54 The ball is swung over by Wayne Rooney, save made by Jose Reina.
45:01 The second half has started.
45:00+5:49 The ref blows to end the first period.
Correction - 45:00+4:39 Rafael Da Silva challenges Leiva Lucas unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick taken by Jose Reina.
Correction - 45:00+4:39 Substitution Javier Hernandez comes on in place of Luis Nani.
45:00+4:39 Awarded for a foul by Rafael Da Silva on Leiva Lucas.
45:00+4:39 Substitution (Man Utd) makes a substitution, with Javier Hernandez coming on for Luis Nani.
45:00+4:39 Booking Martin Skrtel goes into the book for dissent.
45:00+4:29 Booking The referee books Rafael Da Silva for unsporting behaviour.
45:00+1:04 Jamie Carragher concedes a free kick for a foul on Luis Nani. Free kick crossed right-footed by Wayne Rooney from left wing,
Jose Reina makes a comfortable save.
45:00+1:04 Booking Edwin Van der Sar is cautioned by the ref for dissent.
45:00+0:27 Booking Jamie Carragher goes into the referee's book for unsporting behaviour.
40:34 Rafael Da Silva delivers the ball.
38:31 GOAL - Dirk Kuyt:Liverpool 2 - 0 Man Utd Dirk Kuyt grabs a headed goal from inside the six-yard box. Liverpool 2-0 Man Utd.
38:27 The ball is swung over by Luis Suarez, Luis Nani manages to make a clearance.
37:34 Long range shot by Leiva Lucas goes wide right of the goal.
36:16 Inswinging corner taken by Raul Meireles, save made by Edwin Van der Sar. Dirk Kuyt challenges Edwin Van der Sar unfairly
and gives away a free kick. Edwin Van der Sar takes the free kick.
35:07 Raul Meireles takes a inswinging corner to the near post, Ryan Giggs makes a clearance.
35:01 Rodriguez Maxi sends in a cross, Edwin Van der Sar gets a block in.
33:09 Assist on the goal came from Luis Suarez.
33:09 GOAL - Dirk Kuyt:Liverpool 1 - 0 Man Utd Dirk Kuyt finds the net with a goal from close in low into the middle of the goal. Liverpool 1-0 Man Utd.
31:13 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Leiva Lucas by Paul Scholes. Direct free kick taken by Luis Suarez. Steven Gerrard
takes a shot. Outswinging corner taken by Raul Meireles from the right by-line played to the near post, Dimitar Berbatov manages
to make a clearance.
30:41 Raul Meireles takes the outswinging corner, clearance by Chris Smalling.
28:29 Dirk Kuyt challenges Rafael Da Silva unfairly and gives away a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Chris Smalling.
28:01 The referee blows for offside. Free kick taken by Jose Reina.
27:32 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Chris Smalling by Luis Suarez. Michael Carrick takes the direct free kick.
27:06 Dimitar Berbatov is ruled offside. Indirect free kick taken by Jose Reina.
26:31 Centre by Jamie Carragher, Chris Smalling makes a clearance.
24:39 Patrice Evra concedes a free kick for a foul on Steven Gerrard. Free kick taken by Jose Reina.
23:17 Corner taken by Ryan Giggs, Wes Brown takes a shot. Clearance by Jamie Carragher.
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