WAY back in the 1970s and 1980s when Liverpool were the dominant force in English football, they seemed to win every game this way.

It was their hallmark as champions and it looks as if it is a trait that has returned at just the right time. Last week against Tottenham and yesterday in the 2-0 win over Manchester United, Liverpool were presented with their two biggest tests ahead of a run of games that looks much more favourable on paper and they overcame both by judicious use of game management.

Next, they face a trip to Wolves on Thursday night with the leeway of a commanding lead and they won’t have to face a side in the current top four again until April.

Much had been made of the face off between the expensive centre-backs at opposite ends of the pitch: Virgil van Dijk and Harry Maguire. Lest there was any doubt, Van Dijk reaffirmed his status as best defender in the world and unquestionably the better value of the two. He got to the ball before Maguire from a corner to give Liverpool a lead they would never surrender. In the second half, Maguire inadvertently cleared the danger when presented with a similar opportunity to nab a United equaliser.

When Roberto Firmino thought he had curled Liverpool into a two-goal lead, Andreas Pereira channelled his inner Roy Keane, leading a baying posse of disgruntled United players before screaming in the face of Craig Pawson. VAR eventually judged that Van Dijk had fouled David de Gea, no stranger to high-profile flaps in recent years, contending a high ball. He hadn’t.

Soon after, Liverpool had the ball in the net again when Gini Wijnaldum capped a flowing move with a neat stabbed finish past de Gea’s outstretched arm, but again the officials intervened and ruled that the Dutchman was a fraction offside.

Despite those reminders of the bygone days of the 90s and noughties, there was one crucial difference – it is Liverpool who find themselves cruising to the Premier League title and not United. Klopp’s side now find themselves 16 points clear at the top of the table with a game in hand, following a weekend in which their title rivals all slit their own throats.

United have never been in the conversation for the big prize but this was a chance to burnish their own claims for a top-four spot and continue the process of building steadily that Solskjaer had talked so enthusiastically about. Marcus Rashford, the one who might have provided that impetus, has been ruled out for three months with a double stress fracture in his back. Only Fred gave a positive account of himself, but there was no real talisman and it showed when the Brazilian and Anthony Martial both passed up good opportunities to equalise.

For the most part it was all Liverpool. Mo Salah missed when it was easier to score, Sadio Mane flashed over the bar and trickled a shot wide while Jordan Henderson hit the outside of a post following a save by De Gea as Liverpool hunted like big cats stalking a gazelle. United mounted one last push before they were sprung on the break as Salah latched onto a punt forward to seal the three points, and most likely, the title with his first goal against the Red Devils.

HOW much longer has Eddie Howe got? The Bournemouth manager has long been touted as the brightest young manager in English football down south. Howe’s name is invariably one of the first linked with a vacant job whenever they become available mostly due to the narrative that plucky Bournemouth have battled against all the odds to stay in the top flight. Yet the evidence suggests otherwise. Over the past five seasons, only seven teams in the Premier League have had a higher net spend than Howe’s club and they include the big guns of Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea.

On Saturday, at Norwich, Bournemouth fell to their 10th defeat in 12 matches to leave them one place off the bottom. His previous finishes of 12th, 9th, 14th and 16th don’t exactly scream next England manager in waiting. Asked after his side’s latest defeat what he should do next, he admitted he didn’t know. That’s a worrying sign for Bournemouth fans.