On the back of a disappointing defeat to Chelsea, United travelled to Anfield for the small matter of Liverpool away, and a fantastic opportunity to put some light between us and chasers Arsenal. After defeating Liverpool twice at Old Trafford this season, and sitting top of the table, United were relative favourites for the encounter despite our indifferent record at the notoriously difficult Anfield. However, with a defence depleted of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, to add to the injuries to Ji Sung Park and Antonio Valencia, the reds were likely to be in for a tough afternoon.
Inevitably, Liverpool started the game with ferocious intensity, almost scoring within the first few minutes as Raul Meireles’s cross was almost diverted home by Luis Suarez. United appeared to be being overwhelmed by a Liverpool side who were likely to be contesting their last worthwhile game of this season, yet the reds nearly took the lead against the run of play, only for Dimitar Berbatov’s effort to strike the post. However this was to prove one of a very fleeting number of efforts on the Liverpool goal from a sloppy looking United side, and again we were typically punished for our slow start on the half hour mark, as Suarez burst into the penalty area, before squaring to Dirk Kuyt to tap home his first ever goal against Fergie’s side.
Things got worse for the reds 5 minutes later, as a completely misjudged header from Nani fell straight to Kuyt again to nod home his second of the match, leaving United with it all to do. An awful first half was further compounded by a serious injury to Nani, after a horror challenge from Jamie Carragher who will consider himself extremely lucky to not have been shown a red card. Rafael da Silva was also somewhat fortunate to not be reprimanded for a reckless lunge in stoppage time, leaving tensions high as the players left the field for half time.
After a shocking first half, United found themselves in a real battle to salvage a point from the match. However, some choice words at half time seemed to have rejuvenated the reds, as we began to dictate possession and create some opportunities, notably Giggs whose volley narrowly went over and Hernandez who was inches away from latching on to a Berbatov cross. United’s golden ticket back into the match was presented to Dimitar Berbatov on the hour mark, as Hernandez’s header back across the box fell to him in the 6 yard box, only for the Bulgarian to have his header cleared off the line, and with it United’s chance of salvation. 5 minutes later the game was over, after a catastrophic handling error from Van Der Sar allowed Kuyt to tap in his hat trick, and condemn United to their 3rd league defeat of the season. A well worked Hernandez goal in stoppage time salvaged a tiny amount of pride back for the reds, but it was a classic case of too little too late, and leaves the title race wide open.