Liverpool were given a glorious glimpse of a bright future on a historic Sunday at Anfield as Manchester United were ruthlessly crushed 7-0 to match their heaviest ever competitive defeat.
Roberto Firmino came off the bench to inflict the final wound on a beleaguered United, who had lost just once in their previous 22 games.
But in the week it was reported the Brazilian will leave Liverpool at the end of the season, the Reds new-look front three finally clicked as Cody Gakpo, Darwin Nunez and Mohamed Salah all scored twice.
The triumvirate of Salah, Firmino and the now departed Sadio Mane took Liverpool back to the top of English and European football under coach Jurgen Klopp.
In a desperately disappointing season with Liverpool still sitting only fifth in the Premier League, the signings of Nunez and Gakpo for a combined £100 million ($121 million) have been questioned.
But both enjoyed by a distance the best day of their Liverpool careers to prove the doubters wrong.
“We showed tonight what we could be, what we can be and what we have to be from now on,” said Klopp. “We don’t talk about the scoreline, we just talk about the performance.”
The fact that both players were once linked with United will sting even more for the Red Devils with a centre-forward a priority this summer if the progress they have made under Erik ten Hag is not to stall next season.
Gakpo was seen as an obvious target given Ten Hag has not been slow to shop in his homeland with the signings of Antony, Lisandro Martinez and Tyrell Malacia.
But Liverpool are beginning to reap the rewards of jumping ahead of the competition to sign the Dutch forward from PSV Eindhoven in January following an impressive World Cup.
Gakpo produced two stunning finishes, firstly with power and then finesse to beat David de Gea to take the game away from United either side of half-time.
The 23-year-old doubled his tally for Liverpool in one afternoon, but his four goals have come in his last six games.
Nunez’s erratic form in front of goal was a contributing factor to Liverpool’s slow start to the season.
But the Uruguayan showed the aerial prowess he possesses to bring a different dimension to Klopp’s attack with two headers that took his tally for the season to 13.
“Nobody doubts Darwin’s impact once he settles,” said Klopp. “He is a real force of nature.”
• Salah sets new record –
The constant between Liverpool’s past and present remains Salah, who set another record to inflate his status as a club legend.
The Egyptian crashed in a volley off the underside of the crossbar and then pounced with a simple tap in for the sixth to become the Reds’ all-time top goalscorer in the Premier League with 129.
“Mo Salah achieved something really special. We should not forget that. He’s a very special player and a special boy,” added Klopp.
“We appreciate him now but in the future when we look back, people will realise just how special.”
For much of the season Klopp has struggled to find the answers to how a team that came so close to an unprecedented quadruple last season could fall so hard and so fast.
Barring a remarkable fightback from a 5-2 first leg deficit against Real Madrid in the Champions League last 16, there will not be a trophy to celebrate at the end of the campaign.
But Liverpool will now forever have one day by which to remember 2022/23.
And it could be even more significant in the seasons to come if this was the day a new fearsome front three finally came together.
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