LIVERPOOL, England -- Ralf Rangnick insists that he believes Manchester United might only be two or three transfer windows away from catching Liverpool but judging by the latest thrashing at Anfield, the gap looks more like two or three thousand light years.
After Liverpool's 4-0 victory on Tuesday, the Premier League table shows a difference of 22 points, but in practical terms these two teams occupy entirely different stratospheres.
Jurgen Klopp's side are so far in the distance that United can barely see them -- which is fitting given that on Tuesday night, they barely got close enough to get a sniff of a red shirt. They smell like success, by the way, something the away fans who travelled from Manchester might not experience for a while.
The only consolation for those United supporters is that the season is one game closer to its end.
"It is embarrassing, it is disappointing, maybe even humiliating," Rangnick said after Tuesday's rout.
By the time Liverpool's season reaches its conclusion, they could have done what no other English team has done before: won the quadruple of the Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup and Carabao Cup.
That's the same number of trophies in one season that United have won in nearly a decade. It could be another 10 years before they win the next one if Liverpool and Manchester City continue their era of domination and United continue to be poorly run and poorly coached.
Two or three transfer windows? Yeah, right.
"When Jurgen Klopp came six years ago, they changed at the club and lifted not just the team but the club and city to a new level," United midfielder Bruno Fernandes said afterward. "That is what needs to happen with us in the next transfer windows. They have better players than us. There has to be a rebuild for sure."
"Liverpool is ready for the title. We are not," Fernandes added. "I don't need to be here saying about the difference of the level. We have to look at ourselves, from top to bottom, and understand what is going wrong."
It was apparent as early as the second minute what kind of night it was going to be. Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson used his first touch to swivel past Fernandes and calmly pass out to his defence while United goalkeeper David de Gea's first contribution was to punt the ball into the Sir Kenny Dalglish Stand under no pressure at all.
It set the tone for the game: United awkward and panicked in Rangnick's reshuffled 5-4-1 formation with Phil Jones as a third centre-back while Liverpool was courageous and confident.
Luis Diaz scored after five minutes and Mohamed Salah added a second goal after 22 minutes, his time scoring since March 12. Both were crisp and well-constructed -- two things that have looked unfamiliar to Rangnick's players.
Man United could barely find another blue shirt, let alone create anything meaningful. As they knocked the ball around during a delay to the start of the second half, each completed pass was cheered loudly by the Kop.
You know it's bad when your fiercest rivals are laughing at you.
There was more sarcastic applause 10 minutes into the second half when United finally had a shot during a brief spell when the visitors looked vaguely competent, but a goal from Sadio Mane and another from Salah made it 4-0. That's a 9-0 aggregate score if you include Liverpool's 5-0 demolition at Old Trafford in October.
Liverpool were so much better on Tuesday that they risked boredom.
"We were clearly better in the first half and then keeping the concentration level is very important," said Klopp.
"I am not here to humiliate opponents," Klopp added. "They're obviously in a difficult situation. We did what we had to do -- 9-0, I am not interested in that. It's something for the supporters if they want to celebrate. I know it will not last forever. They will strike back."
Rangnick's prediction about how long it might be before United can match Liverpool is a hope rather than an expectation. It relies on the idea that the club have a viable plan for player recruitment going forward and it conveniently ignores the fact that they spent a combined £130 million on Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka as recently as 2019.
Maguire, culpable in all four goals at Anfield, wouldn't get anywhere near this Liverpool team while Wan-Bissaka isn't even a regular for United.
It spoke volumes that 19-year-old midfielder Hannibal Mejbri showed more fight and desire in six minutes as a substitute than most of his teammates combined. Erik ten Hag must love a challenge if he's signed up to sort out this mess.
Tuesday at Anfield was a mismatch played out by teams heading in opposite directions. United are on course for their worst points total since the formation of the Premier League while Liverpool remain in the hunt to reach new heights.
The gap between the two is almost off the scale. They may as well be on different planets.