Liverpool were outplayed and at times embarrassed at Old Trafford by a vibrant Manchester United side who are back on top of the Barclays Premiership with an 11-point lead on Rafael Benitez's distraught men.
In his 500th game for United, only eight players previously have reached that total for the club, Paul Scholes scored a trademark goal from midfield and Rio Ferdinand belted in his first of the season after the break.
Liverpool were ordinary and only effective when Steven Gerrard moved back into central midfield near the end and the question of why one of Europe's best midfielders spends so much time on the wing for club and country remains open.
Sir Alex Ferguson brought back Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs, Wes Brown dropping to the bench with Ronaldo, who has missed two days of training with flu.
Wayne Rooney, two days short of his 21st birthday could hardly have had a better present with victory against old foes, on his 100th game for the Old Trafford men. For Liverpool, skipper Gerrard has reached the 350 mark.
Anfield boss Benitez made three changes from the side that won in Bordeaux on Wednesday. Out went Craig Bellamy with an ankle injury, with Peter Crouch on the bench and Bolo Zenden left out of the squad. There were recalls for Gerrard, Mohamed Sissoko and Dirk Kuyt, with Luis Garcia given an attacking midfield role.
Sir Bobby Charlton was honoured for the 50th anniversary of his United debut before the game by both United and Liverpool greats, and then Scholes likewise received an award from Charlton for his 500th game.
After the pleasantries were over, Liverpool looked sharp and keen.
A quick passing move between Mark Gonzalez and Xabi Alonso resulted in a fierce cross that flashed a foot behind Gerrard. John Arne Riise then tried to beat Edwin van der Sar from 60 yards.
But United were soon into their stride and when Darren Fletcher robbed Riise and then beat Jose Reina to the ball outside the box, there was sheer panic until Alonso scrambled the ball to safety.
Liverpool failed to clear a succession of set pieces and corners with the ball bouncing erratically around their area.
The usual suspects - Rooney, Jamie Carragher, Sissoko and Gerrard - found themselves warned by referee Graham Poll for bad tackles, before Reina needed to be swift to push away a Louis Saha shot.
Sissoko was then first into the book for a foul on Scholes, despite several debatable challenges from both sides going unpunished earlier.
Michael Carrick's floated ball in for Rooney was nodded away in the nick of time by Steve Finnan before Gonzalez, at the other end, crossed for Kuyt to plant a firm header into the arms of countryman Van der Sar.
But United's flow of passing through Rooney, Scholes and Giggs constantly threatened to open up Liverpool, who replied with a flurry of long-range efforts from Gonzalez and Gerrard that produced nothing.
United took the lead after 38 minutes when Scholes played a one-two with Rooney, who swept the ball out to Giggs. The resulting low cross saw Scholes, who had continued running, appear unmarked six yards out to stab his shot at Reina, whose half save failed to avoid the inevitable.
Reina then saved superbly at full stretch from Saha as United searched for the killer second goal.
Liverpool's only response was an Alonso shot wide, and they had looked uninspired throughout a worrying half for the men from Merseyside.
United continued their offensive after the break, and when Steve Finnan's headed clearance dropped for Saha, he saw a 20-yard shot flash just wide.
Liverpool took off Gonzalez and sent on Jermaine Pennant on the left flank on 51 minutes.
Gerrard's body language out on the right said it all about his views on ineffective colleagues and where he was being asked to play. And when he did manage to lift the ball into the box, Luis Garcia's flicked header failed to trouble Van der Sar.
Then United struck again on 66 minutes, significantly at a time when Carragher was still limping around after an ankle blow from a challenge by Saha.
Giggs found space on the left for a cross which was turned on by Saha and only partially cleared by Carragher. It fell to Ferdinand on the right of the box and the England defender created space for himself before blasting his shot high into the far corner of the net.
Last season Ferdinand scored the winner in this fixture, and his joy at striking again was clear for all to see.
Nemanja Vidic was booked for a foul on Kuyt before Liverpool replaced Alonso with Crouch, Pennant moving to the right, Luis Garcia to the right and Gerrard - at last - into central midfield.
But it was all too late. Giggs started to run riot, beating five players before chipping on to the roof of the net as Liverpool's resolve disintegrated by the minute.
Steve Finnan was booked for a foul on Rooney and then Crouch was yellow-carded for a lunge at Van der Sar as he was trying to clear the ball. Referee Graham Poll moved swiftly to defuse the situation and Crouch's raised hand of apology was clearly genuine.
The crowd of 75,828 was the biggest ever crowd to watch United at Old Trafford, and a Premiership record.
Gerrard's new found involvement saw him head just over from a Pennant cross. But it was too little too late.
Paul Walker, PA
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