Goals from Robin Van Persie and Patrice Evra secured a vital victory over Liverpool which extended their lead at the top of the Barclays Premier League to 10 points.
Liverpool looked fairly comfortable in the early stages without creating any clear cut chances before United took the lead when Robin Van Persie scored his 17th league goal for United after 19 minutes.
The Merseyside club set their stall out to grab a point from Old Trafford- playing three deep lying midfielders in Lucas, Allen and Gerrard in an attempt to suppress United’s attacking talents. Brendan Rodgers looked to use his attacking wing backs of Glen Johnson and Andre Wisdom but they did not have the quality to deliver a telling ball into the Manchester United penalty, although they found time and space down the flanks.
Luis Suarez cut an isolated figure up-front with his usual technique of spinning and wriggling free of defenders proving to be in vain. Veteran defenders Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic showed again that they’re top defenders who are capable of man marking one of the leagues top strikers. The Uruguayan struggled without support from Gerrard with Rodger’s tactics not working well for Liverpool in the first half. Ferdinand in particular impressed against Suarez who has scored 15 goals this season.
Ashley Young found Van Persie in the penalty with a penetrative run and through ball but the Dutchman could only strike his effort over Pepe Reina’s goal after 25 minutes.
Danny Welbeck found himself in on goal on the half an hour mark after a mistake by Liverpool but his effort was blocked by Daniel Agger. Neither side was dominating proceedings, but United continued to enjoy the best of the chances with Tom Cleverly flashing a volley past the far post from 15 yards out after good work from Van Persie. Reina was beaten all ends up and was relived to see the ball whizz past. Liverpool continued to be persistent in their attack, but could not find a way past the United defence with the final ball lacking yet again. Andre Wisom was sloppy in possession and gifted Welback another chance but the England striker couldn’t hit the target.
Shinji Kagawa made his ninth appearance for United and looked assured in possession throughout and could have scored his third goal of the season after good work from Raphael. Van Persie had a chance to add to United’s lead but his flick was blocked off the line and Kagawa missed the follow up- clattering Pepe Reina in the process. The goal would have surely meant game over, but it was not to be.
Brendan Rodgers brought on new signing Daniel Sturridge for the second half and his introduction gave Suarez much needed space in possession when launching attacks on United. All of a sudden, Liverpool were moving well off the ball and were finding space for their forward players.
However, all of Liverpool’s good work at the beginning of the second half was wasted when they fell asleep at a set-piece. United players were lining up at the far post and it was Patrice Evra who doubled United’s advantage. The Frenchman’s fifth goal of the season was assisted by a superb cross by Robin Van Persie. Evra headed in clinically, with his effort taking a deflection off Nemanja Vidic. It’s not clear whether the goal will be given to Evra or Vidic- with the dubious goals panel set to decide later today.
Liverpool continued to not give up and Steven Gerrard fought hard to win the ball in midfield and his 20 yard effort was palmed out by David De Gea to the onrushing Daniel Sturridge who buried the rebound. Liverpool fans smelt a comeback with some supporters letting off red flares in a bid to spur there team on. There has been speculation concerning De Gea’s future at United, and the fashion in which he palmed the ball straight to Sturridge will concern Sir Alex Ferguson.
United continued to threaten and Kagawa went close, drawing a good save from Pepe Reina after striking a shot from 20 yards.
However, the introduction of Suarez and later Borini gave Liverpool real impetus and the Italian flashed a volley wide from just outside the penalty box on the hour mark.
Manchester United brought on Phil Jones and Chris Smalling in an attempt to hold onto their lead but Liverpool enjoyed a period of near domination in the last 10 minutes. Luis Suarez used his strength to wriggle free of several United defenders in the penalty box but the resulting loose ball was blazed over by new boy Daniel Sturridge in front of the Stretford End.
Van Persie had time to produce an audacious piece of skill to back heel from a neat cut back, but his effort was again saved by Reina.
Liverpool can take great confidence form their performance in the second half but in the end the two goal deficit proved too much for them. Daniel Sturridge is already looking like a good signing, and it will be interesting to see what impact he has for Liverpool during the rest of the season.
De Gea 6
Ferdinand 8 (UkFootballFinder.co.uk man of the match)
Vidic 7 (Smalling-79′) 7
Young 6 (Valencia – 46′ ) 6
Kagawa 7 (Jones- 74′) 6
Van Persie 7
Lucas 6 Booked (Sturridge – 46′ ) 7
Allen 6 (Henderson 80′) 6
Sterling (Borini – 62′ ) 7