In the end, Manchester United was lucky to get nil.
On a night where it was outplayed, outfought and taken apart by its fiercest rival, Louis van Gaal, United’s beleaguered manager, was forced to suffer yet more embarrassment.
“No matter how you play against Manchester United it is always difficult to make chances. We could have scored more goals in the first half, but that’s life.
“Scoring the second goal was very important. We know it is only the first leg but we needed to win it and we did. We are in a good position now, we want to go through to the next round.”
Liverpool’s win in the first leg of this Europa League last-16 tie was deserved, though the margin would have been far greater but for the performance of David de Gea, the United goalkeeper.
United, which won at Anfield in the league earlier this season, produced another meek display just days after tumbling to defeat at West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League.
Daniel Sturridge’s penalty and Roberto Firmino’s second half strike means Liverpool will travel to Old Trafford next Thursday with the quarterfinals firmly in sight.
“I have to say that Liverpool created an atmosphere that was fantastic,” Van Gaal told BT Sport.
“They played very well in the first half and we could not cope with their pressure. David de Gea was fantastic. But we had a cheap penalty and in the second half we changed the shape. We had much more contribution to the game but we didn’t create enough.”
In truth, Liverpool should have been out of sight by the interval with De Gea making a number of world class saves to deny the home side.
In the end it had to settle for just the two as De Gea saved his side time after time with his hands seemingly having a magnetic grasp on the ball.
Liverpool, who had already tested the Spaniard, did eventually make the breakthrough when Nathaniel Clyne was fouled inside the penalty area by Memphis Depay.
Sturridge stepped up to take the kick and fired the ball past the despairing dive of De Gea, who appeared to get the slightest of touches on the ball.
United, rattled by conceding, looked vulnerable each and every time Liverpool went forward and De Gea once again had to come to the rescue by somehow preventing Phillipe Coutinho from doubling his side’s advantage.
The game suddenly took on the feel of Liverpool against De Gea with United’s outfield players seemingly unable to keep pace.
Sturridge should have added his side’s second before the interval after a slip by Chris Smalling but once again, De Gea was there to rescue United with a fine stop.
After a dire first half performance, United improved slightly in the second period though rarely looked like finding a way back into the contest.
Once again it was a dreadful mistake by a United player which contributed to the goal as Michael Carrick, on as a substitute, failed to clear the ball and Firmino fired home from close range.
That mistake summed up United’s performance.
It could have got worse for United had the officials seen Marouane Fellaini’s elbow on Emre Can, the Liverpool midfielder.
Speaking on BT Sports, former Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes lashed out against the team’s performance.
“Liverpool had a way of playing. United,” he said. “I didn’t have a clue what they were trying to do.
“United were a shambles. At 2-0, they’re still in the game, don’t get me wrong, but when you’re at Manchester United, I think there’s certain standards you have to live up to that and they’ve fallen well short.”
“Losing 2-0 is a difficult result for us but we have to create an atmosphere like that next week,” he said. “Liverpool deserved it.”