14 December 2014:Â Rodgers – who dropped struggling goalkeeper Simon Mignolet for Brad Jones – can point to a succession of brilliant saves from United’s David De Gea and a controversial second goal from Juan Mata as significant factors in defeat.
This, however, will do little to ease the growing concerns for Rodgers and Liverpool, with the memory of their thrilling 3-0 win here in March – in a sequence that almost took them to their first title in 24 years – seeming an age away.
Robin van Persie’s third for United at the end of a lightning counter-attack only added to Liverpool’s pain and gave the scoreline a lopsided look given the amount of work done by De Gea.
United’s sixth successive league win continued United’s resurgence under manager Louis van Gaal and put Liverpool’s decline since they came so close to winning the Premier League into even sharper relief. Liverpool now trail third-placed United by 10 points.
Liverpool’s owners, Fenway Sports Group, intend to give Rodgers until the end of the season at least to turn matters around given the credit he still has after last season, but after a miserable Champions League campaign was confirmed by their exit at the group stage following the midweek draw with Basel, these are crucial days for the northern Irishman.
In the space of 25 seconds, Liverpool should have taken the lead but then found themselves behind as Antonio Valencia nutmegged Joe Allen and pulled the ball back for Rooney, who scored with Jones diving in the wrong direction.
De Gea thwarted Sterling – utilised as a lone striker – once more before United doubled their lead in controversial fashion five minutes before half-time.
Mata was clearly offside when he headed in after Van Persie got a slight touch to Ashley Young’s cross. There was daylight between Mata and the last Liverpool defender, so it can only be assumed linesman Mike Mullarkey did not believe Van Persie got a touch.
Whereas United had taken the chances that had come their way, Liverpool had wasted every opportunity, as Sterling did once more early in the second half.
Michael Carrick, who had been immaculate, inexplicably allowed Jonny Evans’ pass to roll straight to Sterling, who hesitated, even when he seemed to have rounded De Gea, allowing the goalkeeper to get back and save.
De Gea’s development into a world-class goalkeeper has been confirmed by a series of stellar performances this season and he showed his quality and reflexes again to turn Balotelli’s close-range shot on to the bar.
The difference between the sides was illustrated once more as Van Persie wrapped up United’s win. Dejan Lovren scooped Rooney’s pass hopelessly into the path of Mata, who found Van Persie to score, with Jones once again on the wrong foot.
Source : BBC Sports