Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish spoke of the boost which Steven Gerrardâ€™s return from injury had given the club – and the captain, starting his first game of the season, effortlessly slotted back into his combative midfield role. The 31-year-old was a presence all over the pitch, supporting Charlie Adam and Lucas Leiva when United were in possession while still finding the energy to drive forward and showcase his crossing ability. And he capped a fine performance with a goal, squeezing his free-kick between Ryan Giggs and Danny Welbeck in the United wall to hand the home side the lead after 68 minutes.
United’s Mexican forward continues to enhance his reputation as a clinical goalscorer in and around the 18-yard box. Gerrard’s strike prompted Sir Alex Ferguson to introduce HernÃ¡ndez as a second-half substitute – and the striker made an immediate impact. From a United corner, he managed to manufacture space, despite being closely marked by Martin Skrtel, and he headed past Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina to earn his side a point.
United right-back Chris Smalling endured a testing 90 minutes as Luis Enrique and Stewart Downing proved to be constant threats on Liverpoolâ€™s left side. The pair combined on numerous occasions to surge past Smalling and deliver dangerous balls into the box – but Liverpoolâ€™s pint-sized forwards Dirk Kuyt and SuÃ¡rez were unable to capitalise as the aerial threat of Andy Carroll remained untapped on the substitutes bench.
Phil Jones, Darren Fletcher and Park Ji-Sung offered little creativity in the centre of the park as the trio were kept quiet by defensive midfield duo Adam and Lucas, who devoured any vacant space in front of their defence. It suited the visitors’ cautious approach to the game but it left Welbeck isolated, while Ashley Young was asked to manufacture his own chances on goal.
Martin Kelly excelled as he faced one of his toughest assignments in a Liverpool shirt. The 21-year-old was asked to keep tabs on the in-form Young as Ferguson looked to his wingerâ€™s pace and trickery to cause the inexperienced right-back problems. But Kelly, deputising for the injured Glen Johnson, looked comfortable and added an extra dimension to the home side’s attacks, offering support to Gerrard and Kuyt in the final third.
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