Liverpool stand just two wins away from the Premier League title after champions Manchester City slumped to another derby defeat at the hands of Manchester United.
Anthony Martial and Scott McTominay struck as City goalkeeper Ederson blundered twice to hand United a 2-0 success at Old Trafford on Sunday.
It was United’s third victory over their neighbours this season and, with January signing Bruno Fernandes having transformed their fortunes, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was left looking upwards with confidence.
United are back to fifth in the table, three points behind fourth-placed Chelsea, and firmly in the fight for Champions League places.
“We feel we are improving all the time,” said Solskjaer. “We know we lack one or two, or three players – and some experience – to be considered a title contender.
“But we are not going to start talking about that now. We are just going to start talking about going up the table, getting more points, to that top four.
“For me it shows we are on the right track and we’re improving and we are Man United. We are looking towards catching the teams in front of us.”
Fernandes, who is yet to taste defeat since joining United, again shone and Solskjaer said his influence has been felt by everyone at Old Trafford.
The Norwegian said: “(It’s) the whole club, because he has everything. He works hard and he is humble enough.
“He has the desire and commitment but he has also got the X-factor, he is a risk-taker.”
The only downside for United fans was that the result left fierce rivals Liverpool, the leaders, needing just another six points to be mathematically certain of a first league crown in 30 years.
City remain second but they trail by a huge 25-point margin after a seventh defeat of a disappointing title defence.
“It was a bad game for us, not acceptable,” midfielder Bernardo Silva told Sky Sports. “A team like ours cannot lose this many games.
“We need to check what’s not going right and try not to make so many mistakes.”
City manager Pep Guardiola refused to blame Ederson, who should have saved Martial’s shot and then threw the ball to McTominay in injury time.
Guardiola said: “He’s an extraordinary keeper. That’s the only thing I can say. It’s part of the game so next time he’s going to do better.”
Guardiola also insisted his side played well.
“I don’t agree with Bernardo,” Guardiola said. “In general we played well but congratulations United on the victory.”