Fresh off the back of the dreaded international break, United returned to Premier League action with a trip to Anfield, to take on the old enemy Liverpool. Having not won at Anfield since 2007, and having generally played very poorly there in recent years, United were looking to set the record straight and deliver a performance for the small contingent of travelling reds to sing about. With speculation over the personal life of Wayne Rooney, Fergie took the somewhat shock decision of leaving the England striker on the bench, instead favouring Danny Welbeck and Ryan Giggs to spearhead the United attack. Phil Jones was also used in the somewhat unfamiliar role of central midfield, in an attempt to overcome the combative side of Liverpool’s midfield, an area where United had perviously suffered in past trips to Anfield.
Games of this magnitude often suffer with the weight of expectation, and this one was no different in the early exchanges, with both sides gifting the ball away with alarming regularity and little quality on show to truly test one another. United nearly broke the deadlock 20 minutes into the game, as Patrice Evra’s determined run and cross found Phil Jones at the back post, but the England defender failed to register what would have been a memorable first United goal, heading wide at the near post. In a game of few chances Liverpool were unlucky not to take the lead, after Charlie Adam’s shot found its way into the path of Luis Suarez, the Uruguyan striker fired his shot straight into the relieved De Gea wasting the best goalscoring opportunity of the half.
Fergie would have been relatively happy with the way United had subdued Liverpool in the opening half, however, with an impressive array of talent waiting on the bench, there was always the feeling that the reds would push for the win in the second 45. The initial stages of the half continued in much the same fashion as the first, with neither side really asserting themselves with any sort of conviction, Liverpool only really threatening from set pieces, and United looking dangerous on the break. With Rooney and Nani poised to come on for the reds, disaster struck as Steven Gerrard’s free kick evaded Ryan Giggs’ feeble attempt at a wall, and beat David De Gea to give Liverpool the lead. With something to hold on to, Liverpool were content to sit back and absorb what United had to offer, a tactic which seemed doomed to be undone given our free scoring form this season. And low and behold, on 81 minutes, United found a deserved equaliser through substitute Hernandez, who magnificently pounced upon Danny Welbeck’s flick on to nod home from 5 yards out setting up a frantic final 10 minutes.
With both sides sensing the game was there for the taking, things seemed to open up with both sets of players looking to make a legend of themselves with a late winner. United were thankful to De Gea on two occasions, firstly from Kuyt’s sliding effort, which the young Spaniard parried away with magnificent reactions, and then secondly from Jordan Henderson’s dipping volley in the last minute of the game. With Rooney in midfield, United toiled, but could find no memorable late drama a la O Shea, and both sides had to settle for what was a fair point.
De Gea – 7 Crucial late saves kept United in it.
Smalling – 7 Defended well against an in form Downing and Enrique.
Ferdinand – 6 Handled Suarez fairly well, few needless fouls invited pressure.
Evans – 7 Calm and composed, only caught out once by Suarez.
Evra – 7 Solid defensively and going forward. Kissed badge in front of the Kop!
Park – 6 Failed to deal with Enrique bombing forward.
Fletcher – 6 Gradually grew into game after shambolic start.
Jones – 6 Baptism of fire to play in midfield, handled occasion well.
Young – 5 One of his quieter games for United.
Giggs – 4 Looked lost until switched to left wing, culpable for Gerrard goal.
Welbeck – 7 Deserved better support for some excellent build up play.
Hernandez – 7 Vital goal once again, the boy has a thirst for them.
Rooney – 7 Gave United extra potency and vitally cleared off own goal line.
Nani – 6 Provided added attacking dimension.