Liverpool won their fourth consecutive league game, thanks to Daniel Sturridge’s third goal of the season. It is the first time since 1994 that the Reds have won their opening three league games, and they remain the only team across the four top English divisions yet to concede in the league this season.
With a combined 38 league titles, it is fair to say that Liverpool and Manchester United represent the two most successful teams in English football history. The two have played each other 187 times, with United winning 74 of these encounters, and Liverpool claiming 62 wins. The last meeting between the two finished 2-1 to Manchester United, after goals from Van Persie and Vidic. Liverpool’s last meeting at home to Manchester United ended in defeat, with Rafael and Van Persie cancelling out Gerrard’s opener. Liverpool are hoping for their first win since Dirk Kuyt’s late winner secured a 2-1 Anfield win in the 2012 FA Cup 4th round, while United are attempting to win their fourth consecutive match against their rivals. Both managers have scores to settle; David Moyes never managed to beat Liverpool at Anfield during his tenure as Everton manager, and Brendan Rodgers has lost all four of his meetings against Manchester United during his time at Swansea and Liverpool.
United made a fast start, after Young showed his pace down the left hand side. His cross was cleared by Agger, but only as far as veteran midfielder Ryan Giggs, who had his shot saved by Mignolet. Minutes later, Young was guilty of taking too much time on the ball, and was closed down by Henderson. Henderson then passed to Sturridge, whose shot resulted in a Liverpool corner. Gerrard took the corner, finding Agger, who got to the ball ahead of Ferdinand. Agger flicked the ball on, finding Sturridge who found the back of the net for the fifth time in four games so far this season. United appeared determined to get straight back into the game, with Danny Welbeck’s pace forcing Enrique to give away a free kick. The free kick was taken by Giggs, and yielded another good chance for the away side. Evra got a head to the ball, and found Van Persie, who attempted an ambitious overhead kick, flying just over. As Liverpool went straight up the other end, Coutinho could have made it 2-0, but his curling shot went over the bar. The lightening quick start continued, when good link-up play between Evra and Welbeck resulted in the latter taking a shot, only to have it held comfortably by Simon Mignolet. Back at the other end, Iago Aspas found Gerrard in space just outside the penalty area, but the captain failed to find enough power to beat De Gea.
United missed a decent chance from Ashley Young’s corner, with both Welbeck and Van Persie failing to get on the end of it. The defence coped very well in the early stages, Martin Skrtel in particular looking very solid, given the lack of playing time he has had so far this year. Giggs’ age showed, as he was forced to hack down Coutinho to prevent him getting past. Gerrard’s free kick was headed away by Vidic, and Coutinho’s curling follow up shot was saved by De Gea. Gerrard again had an opportunity to score from a set piece, after Aspas drew a foul from Carrick. However Gerrard’s curling shot was saved down low by the United goalkeeper. United showed a lot of frustration at Liverpool’s intensity and solidity, with Carrick, Cleverley and Van Persie all earning yellow cards in the first half. Moyes’ side will have been disappointed with their crossing, regularly seeing them being cleared by the defence or held by Mignolet. Giggs also struggled during the first half, missing two good chances to set Van Persie and Welbeck through on goal. It wasn’t plain sailing for Liverpool either, with the front four of Sturridge, Henderson, Coutinho and Aspas struggling to get the second goal that would help calm the nerves of supporters. The half ended with Van Persie clashing with Skrtel, over an alledged elbow. Gerrard and Vidic tried to cool the situation, and perhaps fortunately for Van Persie, Marriner blew his whistle for half time; a chance for both sides to calm down.
After half time, United again made a fast start, winning an early corner. Their set piece woes continued however, as Young failed to find anyone. At the other end, Aspas won another free kick from Carrick. Gerrard crossed it into the box, but Agger’s header flew wide of the post. Giggs’ best moment of the match saw him play a great through ball between Enrique and Gerrard to find Valencia, and his vision was rewarded with another corner. The Welshman took the corner, but Mignolet punched it away, desperate to protect the clean sheet on his North-West derby debut. A lack of communication between Mignolet and Agger created a brilliant chance for the away side to level, but Johnson just about cleared the resulting shot. Minutes later, Welbeck appealed for a penalty after a tussle with Aspas, but the referee rightly waved away the appeals and pointed for a goal kick. Young’s miserable afternoon was brought to an end, after he was substituted for Nani, shortly after being booked for pulling Henderson back. Sterling also entered the fray, in an attempt to give Liverpool more pace down the left hand side when up against makeshift right back Antonio Valencia.
Nani was guilty of taking too much time on the ball, wasting two good chances to create something on the edge of the penalty area. Giggs had a chance to equalise from a corner won by Nani, but his header was saved comfortably by Mignolet. Shortly after, Moyes brought a third striker on, giving Hernandez a chance to play the familiar role of ‘super-sub’. Nani forced Mignolet into a decent save, taking a powerful shot from outside the box. Mignolet just about parried it away, and Valencia’s subsequent cross was cleared by Skrtel. Hernandez made his first impact on the game after 80 minutes, taking a shot which was held by Mignolet. Van Persie had a major chance for a late equaliser, being played through on goal by Hernandez. The angle was too tight however, and the Dutchman was unable to trouble Mignolet. With just minutes remaining, the tension was still unbearable, especially when a free kick in a decent position was given away by Lucas. Van Persie took it, crossing it into the box, where aerial threats like Vidic could have got on the end of it, but Enrique cleared the ball. Five minutes were added on, and Liverpool preferred running the clock down, rather than going for a killer second goal. Wisdom did very well down the right hand side to hold on to possession, and Enrique broke down a late United attack. The whistle went after De Gea pumped the ball to the half way line, prompting delirium for the Liverpool supporters, while inflicting David Moyes the first defeat of his Manchester United reign.