Hat-trick hero Dimitar Berbatov was celebrating his "best day" in a Manchester United shirt after giving his side a 3-2 win over arch-rivals Liverpool in dramatic fashion at Old Trafford.
Berbatov put United 2-0 up with a wonder goal described as "genius" by Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson and then stole victory with a late header after Steven Gerrard had brought the visitors level with a double.
The winner was Berbatov's seventh goal in six games this season as he all but confirmed his transformation from peripheral figure to leading man with this match-winning contribution. But the Bulgarian, ever the team man, would have much rathered his third goal not have been required and he has told his team-mates to cut out the defensive lapses that have hurt United in their past three Premier League matches.
United threw away a two-goal advantage at Everton in injury-time last week and contrived to draw a game they thought was won at Fulham last month after another late equaliser before Gerrard's second-half brace almost cost them another two points.
"Let us hope in the future we won't complicate it so much,'' Berbatov said. "We have to keep working and improving on that. There is a long way ahead of us but hopefully in the end we will be on top.''
Berbatov admitted he didn't even see his second strike go in, instead relying on the crowd to confirm his moment of magic. He first controlled Nani's cross with his thigh just inside the box, then beat a static Pepe Reina with a perfect overhead volley that crashed in off the underside of the bar.
"I never saw the ball go in the back of the net. But when I heard the crowd scream it was easy to guess what had happened. It was a good goal but as long as the ball hits the back of the net it doesn't matter. It was probably my best day in a United shirt. Obviously I am happy. I am going home with a smile on my face. But I am nothing special. I am going home to play with my kids.''
Gerrard felt Liverpool deserved more from the defeat but admitted Berbatov deserved to be on the winning team after becoming the first United player to score three against Liverpool since 1946.
"I think when you recover a two-goal deficit at Old Trafford you feel really good and you fancy yourself to hang on in there and get a fantastic point,'' said Gerrard. "But Berbatov completed his hat-trick - he was the difference and his second goal was world class. We're disappointed with the result but really pleased with how we played and disappointed to go away within nothing.''
Gerrard levelled matters in the second half when he confidently stroked home a penalty before threading an inch-perfect free-kick through the smallest gap in United's defensive wall. He admitted he may have been slightly fortunate with the second.
"I saw how he (Edwin van der Sar) set the wall up and the idea was for me to try to get it over,'' he said. "But you see so many free-kicks where walls break or they go through gaps and if you hit the target you get your reward and I got that.''