[Premier League] Manchester United 0-3 Liverpool
Liverpool: Steven Gerrard (34pen, 46pen) Luis Suarez (84)
Liverpool completed a Barclays Premier League double over 10-man Manchester United as two Steven Gerrard penalties and a Luis Suarez strike kept their title hopes alive at Old Trafford.
The three goals confirmed the visitors’ superiority on an unhappy afternoon when there was no shortage of effort by the Reds, but a lack of cutting edge in the final third.
Nemanja Vidic was sent off for the fourth time against Liverpool after bringing down Daniel Sturridge in the box with 15 minutes left, but Gerrard missed the chance to complete his hat-trick when his penalty hit the post.
Defeat all but ends United’s faint hopes of securing Champions League football for next season and David Moyes’ men must quickly switch focus to this season’s European campaign, and the task of overturning a two-goal deficit to Olympiacos on Wednesday.
Liverpool settled quickly in this match and sprayed the ball around with confidence. Sturridge and Joe Allen missed presentable chances before their opener, which came 12 minutes before the break.
Rafael handled inside the box, referee Mark Clattenburg pointed to the spot and Gerrard sent De Gea the wrong way to put the visitors ahead. Away goalkeeper Simon Mignolet was only tested once in the first half, keeping out Wayne Rooney’s snap-shot not long after Gerrard’s goal.
Any plans put in place at the interval were soon undone when Phil Jones barged in to Allen and, again, Clattenburg decisively awarded a penalty. De Gea guessed right this time but was beaten low to his left by Gerrard.
Adnan Januzaj attempted to get United back into it and, after haring down the right to win a corner, he gesticulated to the Stretford End to get behind the team, which they duly did. But, in truth, there was precious little else for the home support to get excited about.
Vidic received a second yellow for a foul on Sturridge, though the skipper was angry at a perceived dive by the Liverpool striker. And though Gerrard hit the woodwork with his latest penalty, Liverpool’s third came soon after as Suarez latched onto Sturridge’s scuffed shot to place past De Gea.
The match Some feisty early challenges from United players set the tone but Liverpool soon took a strangehold on the game, with Daniel Sturridge flashing wide and Joe Allen firing straight at David De Gea. It was no surprise when Steven Gerrard put the visitors ahead from the spot, while United’s only chance of note in the first half came when Simon Mignolet kept out a Wayne Rooney shot. Gerrard’s second spot-kick early in the second period was a real body blow and, though United increased the tempo thereafter, there were still precious few chances to shout about. Marouane Fellaini blasted over and Robin van Persie headed wide but Nemanja Vidic’s fourth red card against Liverpool, a second yellow for bringing down Sturridge in the box, effectively ended the game as a contest. And though Gerrard struck the post with his third penalty, Luis Suarez soon made it three to complete a miserable afternoon for United.
The goals Referee Mark Clattenburg had no hesitation in awarding a spot-kick after Suarez’s attempted dink past Rafael in the box hit the Brazilian’s hand; Gerrard stepped up and calmly sent De Gea the wrong way. After Phil Jones clumsily felled Allen, the Liverpool skipper went the same way for his second penalty – to De Gea’s left. And though the Spaniard guessed correctly, he couldn’t keep it out. The Merseysiders’ third came when a scuffed Sturridge shot found its way through United’s defence to Suarez, who neatly slotted past De Gea.
Star man United collectively hustled and bustled but did not have enough to break down the Merseysiders, and Rafael typified that. He flew into challenges, including one on Gerrard that earned him a booking by the corner flag, and tested full-back Jon Flanagan regularly down the right, but Liverpool held firm.
Sub-plot For the first time in years, Liverpool came to Old Trafford as favourites in many observers’ eyes – and, if truth be told, they played like it. Though the Olympiacos game is looming, David Moyes picked a strong team to combat the visitors’ threat but United ultimately couldn't break them down, nor defended stoutly enough to keep the league’s top scorers at bay.
The opposition Liverpool still have a chance of winning the title and manager Brendan Rodgers made his intentions clear by naming an attacking starting XI that featured Suarez, Sturridge and Raheem Sterling, who boasted 48 league goals between them this season before kick-off. Suarez made it 49 and only a superb De Gea save prevented the Uruguayan from bagging the half-century.
Move of the match Just before the break, Rafael sprinted on to Adnan Januzaj’s touchline-hugging pass down the right and bent a cross into the path of Rooney, whose first-time shot was parried to safety by Mignolet.
In the stands Old Trafford always bristles with energy when Liverpool are in town and this game was no exception. A crunching early tackle by Jones on Gerrard was the first of many to get both sets of fans on their feet and bellowing. Though United were second best, the home fans’ noise only relented late in the game – and resurfaced with a defiant ’20 times, Man United’ as the final whistle approached. A comical slip from Suarez in the second half brought the biggest cheer of the afternoon, which only emphasised Liverpool’s dominance.