Manchester United avoided losing at Anfield for the fourth time in a row as a late Javier Hernandez header kept their unbeaten run going for the season much to the frustration of Liverpool who after going ahead through Steven Gerrard’s goal that they’d done enough to win.
Before the game Sir Alex Ferguson sprung some surprises in the United line-up by leaving Wayne Rooney, Nani and Hernandez on the bench opting to select Ryan Giggs up top with Danny Welbeck with Park Ji-Sung coming into the team at the Portuguese winger’s expense. Phil Jones meanwhile was playing in central midfield, a position that he had for a brief time made his own at Blackburn.
Rooney was left on the bench by Ferguson due to his ‘disappointment’ at being given a 3-match ban by UEFA following his red-card in Montenegro last Friday, which may seem abit of an ‘excuse’ to ignorant football fans looking on, but given the circumstances was perfectly understandable to enable the talented forward to not to be under any more pressure than he is at the moment.
The game itself started of slowly enabling David De Gea to settle into the game, which is what he did early on as he gathered a few crosses and shots. Pepe Reina down the other end was being kept quiet as well only being called upon really to gather an in swinging Ashley Young free-kick on the right.
Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans in the heart of the United defence were working hard but Luis Suarez is a forward who can create a moment of magic out of nothing. After firing a highly-ambitious shot from 45 yards that tried to catch De Gea off his line, Liverpool’s Uruguayan no.7 wasted a glorious opportunity just after the half-hour to put the hosts in the lead but fired straight at De Gea after a ball from Charlie Adam fell fortuitously into his path after rebounding of Evans.
United came out after half-time brighter testing Liverpool’s organisation early in the half. First a free-kick by Young was comfortably saved by Reina with the ball annoyingly falling out of Welbeck before the ball was cleared by Liverpool. Soon after Young forced Reina into a comfortable save with the England winger’s subsequent corner being headed over by Evans.
Liverpool headlined by Suarez up top then came back into the game and after Dirk Kuyt had a header from a corner hit the arm of Evans inside the area, a good run by the Uruguayan brought a foul from Ferdinand who was booked for his actions by referee Andre Marriner. The ex-England captain was far from happy with Suarez going down weakly under his challenge and neither were the rest of United’s players on the pitch as well as those in the dugout along with the coaches.
Not long afterwards on 68 minutes Liverpool went ahead. A good break by Adam in midfield which started with the Scottish midfielder going past Jones ended with him going down after a slight challenge from Ferdinand just outside the area. There was no doubting that there had been contact but United’s players were incensed and believed that the former Blackpool-man had made the most of the challenge to buy the foul.
Despite already being booked, Marriner bravely decided not to caution Ferdinand and United luckily perhaps were not reduced to 10 men. That didn’t bother the majority of Anfield 20 seconds later though as Gerrard’s free-kick from the edge of the box went in, annoyingly right through a gap in the United wall that was where Ryan Giggs should have been in the wall.
It was a silly way for the goal to be scored. United though hit back and after a great run by Chris Smalling won a corner. Martin Kelly was forced to head over before a second corner by substitute Nani was headed on by Welbeck for Hernandez, who had come seconds earlier for Jones, to head home for his third goal of the season.
It was the Mexican’s second goal in a United shirt at Anfield and a much more important one than his consolation in last season’s fixture which counted for nothing on the day. Reina could do nothing but grasp thin air and it was a predatory strike from the little man.
Liverpool to their credit could have won the game but for two tremendous saves from De Gea in goal. On their first attack after conceding the equaliser a powerful cross from the left by Downing picked out the tireless Kuyt inside the area whose shot seemed destined to hit the back of the net but for a superb save from United’s Spanish keeper, who did his part from the resulting corner to keep the ball out.
United’s no.1 then made a fantastic save to keep out a Jordan Henderson lob from the edge of the box before dogged defending by Rooney (on as a substitute) helped deny Suarez a header on goal from the resulting corner which ended with Skrtel hammering a shot at the back post over the bar. Henderson could have won it two minutes into injury time but headed a comfortable-looking chance over the bar from Downing’s cross as Untied deservedly held on.
United: De Gea, Evra, Ferdinand, Evans, Smalling, Park (Rooney), Fletcher, Jones (Hernandez), Young (Nani), Giggs, Welbeck
David De Gea without a shadow of a doubt gets this award. Whilst United’s back four all worked hard with Rio Ferdinand looking back to his best, De Gea shone and put in arguably his best performance since joining the club. He looked comfortable dealing with crosses made vital saves and now looks to have settled into the team for good. His save to deny Kuyt was a great reaction save but the one afterwards to deny Henderson’s lob from going in was far harder than it looked. He is looking more and more like a great goalkeeper not just for the long-term future but for the here and now!
By Adam Dennehey @ADennehey87