● Dutchman’s hat-trick deals United big blow
● Ferguson bans media access after defeat
MANCHESTER UNITED manager Sir Alex Ferguson battened down the hatches after seeing his side succumb to a second successive Premier League defeat and lose winger Nani to injury in controversial fashion at Anfield.
A hat-trick from Dirk Kuyt dealt the top-flight leaders another big blow just days after their loss at Chelsea, while Nani looks set for a spell on the sidelines after being stretchered off before half-time.
United were incensed at the tackle from Jamie Carragher that left Nani with a gash on his shin and Ferguson refused to talk to any media outlet after the game, even the club’s in-house channel MUTV.
The Scot, already facing a touchline ban over criticism of referee Mark Clattenburg at Chelsea, also banned assistant Mike Phelan and all players from fulfilling post-match interview requirements.
Defeat means United have now lost three of their last five league games, with second-placed Arsenal, who are also suffering a wobble, three points behind and holding a game in hand.
Tempers frayed again when United full-back Rafael went in late on Lucas Leiva, but Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish, enjoying the perfect 60th birthday present 48 hours late, played down bad blood.
“I thought both sets of players were fantastic credit and made it an enjoyable spectacle for everyone,” he said. “United are a great benchmark but our season isn’t finished. We got our reward for the victory in three points but we just want to keep going and get as many as we possibly can.”
Kuyt, who owed much of his first Liverpool hat-trick to a dazzling display from striker Luis Suarez, savoured a “perfect” occasion.
“You dream about the hat-trick and to do it against United is the best feeling ever,” he said. “I’m more than happy but I have to thank Luis because he played great and created two of the goals.”
Suarez set up Kuyt’s first on 34 minutes with superb close control that bamboozled the United defence, while a suicidal header back towards his own goal from Nani handed the Dutchman the second five minutes later.
Carragher’s tackle curtailed Nani’s game moments later, prompting a number of confrontations, and red mist descended again before half-time when Rafael lunged at Lucas, albeit without significant contact. Both defenders received yellow cards when they might have been sent off.
Kuyt clinched victory on 65 minutes when goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar fumbled a Suarez free-kick into his path, meaning an injury-time consolation header from Javier Hernandez barely registered amid a delirious Kop.
Kuyt opened the scoring after 34 minutes when the outstanding Luis Suarez confused United trio Rafael, Michael Carrick and Wes Brown and prodded past goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar across goal, where the Dutchman tapped into the unguarded net
Tempers frayed just before half-time when Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher caught United winger Nani with a late challenge. The Portugal star was carried off with a gash on his shin but referee Phil Dowd spared Carragher a red card, opting to book him
So comfortable were Liverpool by the later stages that manager Kenny Dalglish could afford to hand the most expensive British player of all time, Andy Carroll, his first appearance off the bench since his £35m move from Newcastle in January