The game started tentatively, with both sides more than aware of the importance of the match in the race for the top four. Like against Tottenham Hotspur the week before, captain Wayne Rooney was the main focal point for the United attacks, making a number of intelligent runs early on. For Liverpool the team looked rusty as they did against Swansea and Daniel Sturridge missed two brilliant chances in the opening exchanges.
The teams exchanged blows for the opening twenty minutes before the away side found the break through. Ashley Young, who was hugely impressive throughout, was released on the left hand side with Raheem Sterling caught horribly out of position. His through ball was hilariously attempted to be cut out by Martin Skrtel and Rooney was on hand to fire past Simon Mignolet.
Liverpool tried to respond with Sturridge missing yet another great chance but his afternoon was just about to get a whole lot worse. Following a robust challenge the England striker was left writhing on the ground and he had to be taken off injured. Rodgers reacted by moving the ineffective Sterling up front and bringing on Lazar Markovic at right midfield.
The second goal came about in comical circumstances and will surely haunt Rodgers for some time to come. Marouane Fellaini acted as the deep-lying playmaker (yeah, we weren’t sure either) and sent a brilliant ball through to Di Maria. The Argentine’s shot was deflected by Mignolet before Rooney’s follow-up was blocked by Skrtel and came back off the bar. Unfortunately for the Reds the ball rebounded to Young, who calmly pounced and slotted the ball into the bottom corner.
One of the interesting caveats of the game was the sheer number of yellow cards that United picked up, with Van Gaal clearly instructing his team to try and disrupt Liverpool’s play. No fewer than six players were booked across the course of the game with a number of those players lucky not to receive their marching orders, demonstrating the need for a strong hand when it comes to refereeing this particular fixture.