Match ends, Liverpool 1, Manchester United 2.
- Gerrard sent off 38 seconds after coming on as sub
- 16th red in Premier League meetings between sides
- Mata scores two including stunning scissor kick
- United move five points clear of Liverpool
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard was sent off 38 seconds after coming on as a half-time substitute as Manchester United retained their grip on a top-four place with a vital win at Anfield.
Gerrard was introduced for Adam Lallana at the start of the second half with United deservedly leading through Juan Mata's early goal - but was gone almost as quickly after following up a thunderous tackle on the goalscorer with a reckless reaction to a challenge with a clear stamp on Ander Herrera.
It was inexcusable behaviour from a player of Gerrard's experience, having just been handed the responsibility by manager Brendan Rodgers of getting an underperforming Liverpool side back into the game.
Mata emphasised the folly of Gerrard's red card when he added a second with a sensational volley just before the hour to confirm United's superiority in a game that confirmed the impression that manager Louis van Gaal is now getting the sort of performances and results he demands.
|Alan Shearer: "United moved the ball quickly and they passed it well too - their one or two-touch football has clearly improved massively of late. But the most impressive part of their performance in the first 45 minutes at Anfield was their intensity when they did not have possession."|
|Read more: 'How Van Gaal got it right again'|
Daniel Sturridge pulled a goal back to give Liverpool hope of an unlikely comeback but the visitors were never seriously threatened again and could even afford the luxury of Wayne Rooney seeing an injury-time penalty saved by Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet.
United built on last Sunday's impressive 3-0 win against Tottenham to extend their lead to five points over Liverpool, who are a place behind in fifth.
And the magnitude of the win was emphasised by the sight of manager Van Gaal joining his players as they celebrated with their fans in the Anfield Road end at the final whistle.
The game ended in more acrimony after a challenge by Reds defender Martin Skrtel on United keeper David De Gea - but nothing could diminish United's joy at a fully deserved win against a home side who paid the price for a poor first-half performance and a moment of sheer recklessness from Gerrard.
The 34-year-old, who announced in January that he was leaving Anfield in the summer after joining the Reds aged nine, will now serve a three-game ban.
The hosts have made a fast start their trademark at Anfield under Rodgers - but United turned the tables comprehensively and fully merited the lead given to then when Herrera slipped in Mata superbly for a composed finish in front of the Kop.
The visitors' tempo meant Liverpool were getting no joy in midfield or attack, where Sturridge cut an isolated figure and Raheem Sterling was pushed to the periphery on the right flank.
Sturridge did, however, set up Liverpool's best chance of the half when he played in Lallana with a clear sight of goal. The former Southampton man took aim before sending a side-footed finish wastefully wide.
Lallana was the player sacrificed for the brief introduction of Gerrard, who hinted at his approach with a thunderous challenge on Mata, followed seconds later with another tangle involving Herrera.
For a player of such vast experience, Gerrard's reaction - appearing to stamp on his opponent on the ground - was only going to end one way, with a deserved red card.
Liverpool's fans were furious, especially when Phil Jones escaped with a yellow card for a wild lunge on Jordan Henderson - and their mood darkened further when United added a brilliant second after 58 minutes.
Angel Di Maria, on as a substitute for the limping Ashley Young, lifted the ball into the area for Mata to deposit a brilliant low finish past keeper Simon Mignolet with an acrobatic scissor kick.
Liverpool had actually responded well to Gerrard's dismissal and kept the game alive with more than 20 minutes left when Sturridge beat De Gea with a shot at his near post that the normally impeccable United keeper should have dealt with much better.
The final drama came with that missed Rooney penalty after Emre Can fouled Daley Blind, but fortunately for Rooney it was not to prove expensive.
- 24AllenBooked at 19mins
- 18MorenoSubstituted forBalotelliat 66'minutesBooked at 67mins
- 20LallanaSubstituted forGerrardat 45'minutesBooked at 46mins
- 4K Touré
- 1de Gea
- 25A Valencia
- 4JonesBooked at 56mins
- 17BlindSubstituted forRojoat 90+4'minutes
- 21HerreraBooked at 47minsSubstituted forFalcaoat 83'minutes
- 18YoungSubstituted forDi Maríaat 55'minutes
- 2da Silva
- 7Di María
- Martin Atkinson
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Liverpool 1, Manchester United 2.
Substitution, Manchester United. Marcos Rojo replaces Daley Blind.
Penalty saved! Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) fails to capitalise on this great opportunity, right footed shot saved in the bottom left corner.
Penalty Manchester United. Daley Blind draws a foul in the penalty area.
Penalty conceded by Emre Can (Liverpool) after a foul in the penalty area.
Foul by Wayne Rooney (Manchester United).
Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Falcao (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Joe Allen (Liverpool).
Corner, Liverpool. Conceded by Antonio Valencia.
Substitution, Manchester United. Falcao replaces Ander Herrera.
Corner, Liverpool. Conceded by Marouane Fellaini.
Foul by Antonio Valencia (Manchester United).
Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Chris Smalling (Manchester United).
Mario Balotelli (Liverpool) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Antonio Valencia (Manchester United) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Raheem Sterling (Liverpool).
Foul by Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United).