Manchester United team: de Gea, Rafael, Evra, Carrick, Jones, Vidic, Mata (87), Fellaini (76), van Persie, Rooney, Januzaj (76) (subs: Ferdinand (87), Lindegaard, Young, Cleverely (76) Welbeck (76), Valencia, Kagawa)
Liverpool team: Mignolet, Johnson, Flanagan, Gerrard (87), Skrtel, Agger, Henderson, Sterling (72), Sturridge (92), Suarez, Allen (subs: Jones, Aspas (92), Coutinho (72), Moses, Sakho, Cissokho, Lucas (87))
Liverpool inflicted Manchester United worst home result of the season and propelled themselves back into the title race and all but ended United’s top four ambitions.
Astonishingly there were three penalties awarded in a game at Old Trafford to the opposition, Liverpool skipper Gerrard dispatched two of them, striking the post on his third attempt and denying himself the opportunity of becoming the first Liverpool player to score a hat-trick at Old Trafford since Fred Howe in 1936. Luis Suarez completed the scoring with a neat finish and Manchester United defender Vidic, featuring against Liverpool for the last time in a United jersey, was sent off.
Liverpool dominated the game from start to finish to mark one of their best performances of the season. Sturridge and Suarez were making a nuisance of themselves, the former striking the side netting from a good position. Suarez had reason to feel aggrieved, the Liverpool talisman wriggled his way into the United box with Phil Jones and Fellaini on his tail. He appeared to be bundle over once by Jones and then nudged by Fellaini but ref Clattenburg kept his hands by his side. With Liverpool dominating possession chances came few and far for United, however van Persie looked threatening at times from the wide areas. Midway through the first half Suarez sent Sturridge clear down the right wing, the Liverpool striker cut in brilliantly from Evra’s challenge but scuffed his shot completely. He also had team mate Raheem Sterling in a good goal scoring position to receive the ball.
However, SAS struck again and this time crucially. A cross by Sturridge to the back post was beautifully controlled by Suarez. Rafael handballed as Suarez tried to conjur up an opportunity forLiverpool and they were awarded their first penalty, calmly dispatched by England skipper Gerrard to De Gea’s left. Joe Allen had a shot saved by the United keeper but then, finally, some attacking threat from the Champions. Wayne Rooney had two shots in the space of seconds, a first after being set up by Janujaz, brilliantly saved by Mignolet, who was a spectator until then and Rooney’s second shot was blocked. Janujaz also blazed over and van Persie had a shot blocked.
A dreadful start for the Red Devils in the second half. Phil Jones pushed Allen in the box and Gerrard scored his second penalty, shooting in the same direction as his first. Memories of Liverpool’s 1-4 win here in 2009 rekindled as Gerrard kissed the camera in his celebrations. Man Utd felt they should have had a penalty of their own. The ball appeared to touch Liverpool right back Glehn Johnson’s hand as he was seeing it out but the ref did not have any view of it and would have been harsh, if given, because there was no intent from the full back. Suarez wasted another opportunity for Liverpool and Rooney, Mata and Fellaini all missed chances for Manchester United, who were having their best spell in the game. van Persie missed a header that he might have scored last season.
Ultimately, it was short lived, Liverpool were awarded yet another penalty. Vidic was sent his marching orders when be brought down Sturridge, however, replays showed he dived, leaving a blot on his otherwise good performance. Gerrard chose to shoot in the opposite direction and struck the post, missing a chance to score a hat-trick. Moments later Sturridge was brought down in the box again and should have had a penalty this time round, but Clattenburg thought otherwise. Johnson sent Suarez through on goal but his powerful shot was extraordinarily saved by David De Gea, but did manage to get onto the score sheet later after the ball kindly fell to him, slotting pass the United keeper.
It was difficult to find a positives for United, their defence was appalling and they lacked bite up front. The only silver lining is that their fans were singing all the way through, even after the final whistle, to suggest the majority are still behind Moyes but for how much longer?
On the other hand, Liverpool are enjoying a magnificent season. A win at Old Trafford is always one to cherish, they had only won on 15 occasions in 80 previous visits in the league. This win, however, might have greater significance come the end of the season.