LIVERPOOL, England (AP) — For Liverpool, it was the wildest of dreams.
For Manchester United, the worst nightmare after such a promising start for coach Erik ten Hag at the club.
A 7-0 win for Liverpool against United in the Premier League on Sunday in arguably English soccer’s fiercest rivalry has the potential to have a lasting impact on both teams’ ambitions this season.
It was United’s worst competitive defeat in more than 90 years. United has lost 7-0 on three previous occasions — the last time coming in 1931 against Wolverhampton. The score also eclipsed Liverpool’s previous best victory against United, which was a 7-1 win in 1895.
“A few months ago everyone thought it was a good moment to play Liverpool — you can’t say it publicly but everyone thought it — because they felt we were struggling a lot,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said. “But now it is less of a good moment, we look much more like ourselves. It is important that everyone knows we are here and we are still alive.”
A landmark win could be the launchpad for a powerful finish to the campaign for Liverpool, a push for Champions League qualification and possibly more.
Ten Hag, meanwhile, must hope his players respond in the manner they did after humbling losses against Brentford and Manchester City this season, which sparked impressive undefeated runs.
A four-pronged trophy pursuit now looks highly unlikely, with third-place United 14 points adrift of league leader Arsenal. But after winning the League Cup last week, Ten Hag’s side is still in contention for the FA Cup and Europa League, in what still has the potential to be a triumphant campaign.
Not that the Dutchman was in the mood to look for the positives in the immediate aftermath of United’s joint heaviest loss of all time. It was also Ten Hag’s worst-ever defeat as a manager.
“That for me is unprofessional,” he said. “I’m really disappointed and angry. We let our fans down. As a squad, as a team, you cannot allow this.
“You have to stick together and support each other and fight for each other. You have to defend. We didn’t do that and for me that is really unprofessional.”
Ten Hag has endured his share of tough days in his first season in charge of the 20-time league champions.
United lost 4-0 to Brentford in only the second game of the season and was beaten 6-3 in his first Manchester derby.
“I know this team will reset and we have to bounce back and we have shown in the past we can,” he said.
Klopp has had his own problems this season as his team has struggled to cope with the departure of Sadio Mane last summer.
Until recently, even a Champions League qualifying top-four finish looked in doubt, with Liverpool suffering bruising losses to Brentford, Brighton and Wolverhampton since the start of 2023.
This win, however, closes the gap to fourth-place Tottenham to three points with a game in hand.
It was also evidence of a growing understanding between Liverpool’s new-look attack as Cody Gakpo, Darwin Nunez and Mohamed Salah all scored twice, with Roberto Firmino adding the other.
“It was one of the best performances for a long, long time. Everybody saw how good the boys can be,” Klopp said. “No one was doubting Darwin’s future impact. Cody plays in the most difficult area in the pitch against a man-marking side, which is super tricky. Mo is Mo.”
With fourth place now in sight, Liverpool fans might yet dream of an unlikely comeback in the Champions League round-of-16 game against Real Madrid later this month.
While European champions Madrid lead 5-2 after the first leg at Anfield, this was the type of performance to make the Merseyside club believe anything is possible.
Klopp’s assessment of Sunday’s game was concise: “Freak result, top performance.”
Salah became Liverpool’s all-time leading scorer in the Premier League with 129 goals in 205 appearances.
The Egypt international surpassed Robbie Fowler’s Premier League tally with his second goal.
“It’s very special, I can’t lie. This record was in my mind since I came here,” Salah told Sky Sports.
Salah earlier in the week became only the second Liverpool player after Ian Rush to score 20 goals for a sixth successive season.
FOREST FRUSTRATES EVERTON
If Nottingham Forest is to avoid relegation this season, it will rely on the goals of Brennan Johnson, as well as its form at the City Ground.
The 21-year-old Johnson scored twice in Forest’s 2-2 draw with Everton to make it five goals in his last seven league games.
Meanwhile, Forest is unbeaten in its last nine matches at home in the league.
Demarai Gray and Abdoulaye Doucoure had twice put Everton in front, but Johnson responded to both goals to keep Forest four points clear of the relegation zone.
“At the moment, he is performing really well and getting numbers,” Forest manager Steve Cooper said. “But, as always, it’s about continuing to improve. I know how committed he is and how much he wants to get better.
“There’s always a level to get to and a long way to go, which is natural for his age in his first year in the Premier League.”
Everton missed out on the chance to move out of the bottom three.
“We have to keep getting points on the board, but you have to have a method to what you are doing and there are very pleasing signs to what the players are delivering and how they are taking these games on,” Everton manager Sean Dyche said. “We need points of course, but there has to be a plan, a method and reason of getting them.”