[Premier League] Liverpool 1-1 Manchester United
Liverpool : Steven Gerard (68)
Man Utd : Javier Hernandez (80)
Substitute Javier Hernandez came up trumps with a late equaliser at Liverpool to earn a precious point for the champions.
United were forced to come from behind and battle hard for a point after Steven Gerrard broke the deadlock with a free-kick and Chicharito's predatory header after Danny Welbeck headed on a Nani corner meant a lot more than his consolation at Anfield in last season's fixture.
The manager sprung a few surprises with his team selection with Wayne Rooney and Nani left on the bench, Phil Jones playing in midfield and Danny Welbeck starting in a lone attacker's role. Skipper Nemanja Vidic missed out despite representing Serbia in midweek.
There were a lot of misplaced passes in a frenetic first half with neither side really able to stamp too much influence on the proceedings. United's first glimpse of goal came after a quarter of an hour when Welbeck's positive play eventually led to Patrice Evra crossing from the left and Phil Jones heading into the side-netting.
The Reds limited the chances at the other end but Gerrard's dangerous cross evaded everybody in the middle before the clearest opening of the first period came on 35 minutes. Charlie Adam's shot bounced kindly into the path of Luis Suarez, who turned Jonny Evans but could only shoot straight at David De Gea, who made a vital save. Darren Fletcher and Ji-sung Park were off target with speculative efforts as Sir Alex will have been pleased with his side's contribution to a tight opening 45 minutes.
The second half instantly had a more open feel to it with Ashley Young coming into the game with dramatic effect, mustering three shots in the opening six minutes. Liverpool replied with a hopeful handball shot against Jonny Evans when Dirk Kuyt got his head to a corner and a Suarez effort that was comfortably saved by De Gea. Although Suarez remained a constant threat, the Reds looked in control until Rio Ferdinand was penalised for a trip on Adam, even though replays showed any contact was minimal.
Gerrard stepped up to find a gap in the wall and place a shot into the net past De Gea. Sir Alex had planned to introduce Rooney and Nani in any case and the duo immediately replaced Young and Park. Nani slashed a wild attempt well wide before Hernandez strengthened the attack even further by coming on for Jones.
Jose Enrique escaped a handball in the box when Nani kicked the ball at him but the pressure started to build and the substitutes made an impact. Nani's corner was headed on by Welbeck for Hernandez to divert into the net and plunder the equaliser with nine minutes left. With the match bubbling into life in extraordinary fashion, De Gea had to pull off a marvellous save to deny Kuyt following a superb delivery by Downing from the left. There was another scare from Adam's corner but Nani eventually cleared and both teams looked for the winner in the closing stages, with the hosts building up a head of steam.
Jordan Henderson tested De Gea's reflexes with a late volley after Downing fizzed a drive well wide and a desperate scramble in injury time saw Martin Skrtel slash wide following a brilliant clearing header by Rooney to frustrate Suarez. The final opportunity fell to Henderson whose header just cleared the bar with United hearts in their mouths. But this was a job well done by the champions, who can be pleased with a share of the spoils from one of the most testing fixtures on the calendar.
David De Gea
Made some vital saves for the Reds, including one from Luis Suarez in the first half and a late claw away to frustrate Jordan Henderson. Largely confident with his handling and kicking, he passed a severe test of his character with flying colours and maybe the pick of his stops kept out Dirk Kuyt.
Kept Stewart Downing in check for most of the match and used his speed and brawn to good effect. Coped admirably with a wriggling Luis Suarez inside the area on one occasion and looked to get forward more in the second half. An accomplished return.
Was very tight on the attackers and had a good tussle all afternoon with Suarez. His handling of a charge forward by Martin Skrtel provided proof of his class, if any was needed, and he led from the back throughout. After being booked for a foul on Suarez, his foul on Charlie Adam for minimal contact was punished by Gerrard's free-kick.
Cut out some passes forward to Suarez and stood up to the challenge well. Although he was turned by Suarez, De Gea made an important save after 35 minutes and he was often in control at the back. Stormed forward late on in a bid to find a winner but Ryan Giggs' pass to him fell short.
Arguably his best display of the season as he was clearly up for the battle. A great early tackle on Gerrard set the tone, and won a goal-kick, and a calm chest back to De Gea showed his assurance. When he got forward, he produced a fine cross that Phil Jones headed wide and, although he was booked after tussling with Suarez and Kuyt, this was a storming performance.
A tenacious figure in midfield, doing his work in an understated way, as always. One textbook tackle on Luis Enrique was outstanding, although his shot after the subsequent run forward was way off target. Helped out his defence with a decent header away during one attack but was substituted after putting in a good shift.
His tackling was swift and precise and he improved his passing as he grew into the midfield role. Although keeping a close eye on Adam, he was able to get forward on plenty of occasions, heading into the side-netting from a half-chance, before coming off when the Reds fell behind. Did well to continue after a collision with Lucas just before half-time.
Misplaced his first pass but diligently went about his work, tracking back and linking things together in midfield. One chase back to hound Downing was an example of his commitment to the cause and his passing was much crisper after the break as well. Dragged one tame shot well wide.
A controlled display from the veteran who has been through this experience so many times in the past. Played at his own pace, showing this to great effect when prodding the ball forward to Jones cleverly whilst under some pressure on the edge of his own area. Will be disappointed with his role in the goal as his movement led to a gap in the wall that Gerrard exploited.
Struggled to get into the match in the first half but was bright immediately after the restart, having three shots on goal. Booked for a foul on Gerrard and was substituted after working hard up and down the flank. Looked determined to make his mark in the second half.
The youngster led the line superbly and managed to look a threat despite often ploughing a lone furrow. Saw an early shot smothered and displayed some positive approach work in the build-up to Jones' header into the side-netting. Supplied the flick-on for Javier Hernandez's goal and defended in the left-back role to come out on top in a battle with Gerrard in the closing stages.
Wayne Rooney (for Park, 68)
It was a surprise to see him start on the bench but he was up for the fight when coming on after the opening goal. Worked hard all over the pitch and made a fantastic header to deny Suarez what would have been a certain goal in the dying seconds.
Nani (for Young, 68)
Provided the corner for the equaliser and looked to work some magic. Had a decent penalty shout when Luis Enrique handled in the box as he tried to look for a way through.
Javier Hernandez (for Jones, 76)
Sir Alex gambled on increasing his attacking numbers when throwing on Hernandez and, as he does, the Mexican striker came up trumps with his leveller. Welbeck nodded the ball on and Chicharito sent a header, on the run, into the net to the delight of the visiting supporters for his third goal of the campaign.