Gerrard hat-trick crushes Villa

Steven Gerrard believes Liverpool's 5-0 destruction of Aston Villa has sent a message to Manchester United that Rafa Benitez's side are determined to snatch the title from Old Trafford. Gerrard's first Premier League hat-trick helped Liverpool move within one point of United and, although the leaders still have a game in hand, the Reds captain knows the race for the title is starting to hot up.

"It always sends a message when you win convincingly. Everyone knows we are on a rich vein of form and confidence is high here," Gerrard said. "It's important we just focus on what we are doing, keep on their shoulders and keep piling that pressure on them.

"While they are going into games knowing we are ready to pounce on any mistakes they make, it will be more difficult for them," Gerrard added. "Also Chelsea are there as well, although they lost to Tottenham on Saturday. We can't discount them either. But it's important not to get carried away. Manchester United are capable of winning all their remaining games."

Liverpool's five-star display at Anfield continued the form that saw them rout Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League and then thrash United 4-1 last weekend. Gerrard admitted even he was stunned by the size of victory against a team chasing a top-four finish.

"It was more than we expected. We would have settled for a 1-0 win against a fantastic Villa team who have been going well this season," Gerrard said. "It was important we got after them from the start and we never let them settle. We got an early goal and built on it. When you get the second goal, you start thinking of the goal difference."