United moved back to the top of the table above Arsenal and one, significant step closer to a 19th championship and record fourth consecutive Premier League title with this well-deserved 2-1 win over fierce rivals Liverpool.
It was hearts-in-mouths time after just five minutes when Fernando Torres put the visitors in front with a free header. But United recovered when Wayne Rooney scored the rebound from his saved penalty kick six minutes later. From then on Sir Alex Ferguson’s men dominated, and the winner arrived after an hour when Ji-sung Park’s diving header sent Old Trafford into delirious celebration.
Liverpool have won the last three of these fixtures, United suffering the ignominy of a 4-1 defeat on home turf here last season. Settling that score itself may have formed a significant part of Sir Alex’s pre-match team-talk. But there was a wider focus for United than one-upmanship over a local rival. Three points would raise the prospects of a fourth straight title and the undisputed crown of being English football's most successful team.
That fuelled the atmosphere on a bright and sunny spring day in Manchester, and whether fans were dressed in the traditional red and white or protest green and gold, everyone was united behind the team.
Sir Alex opted to stick with the formation and line-up that yielded success against Milan in Europe – a 4-5-1 formation with Rooney leading the line, Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher anchoring the midfield, Park charged with hassling and harrying Steven Gerrard and co., and Antonio Valencia and Nani operating out wide.
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