By Robert Morris
In recent seasons, few ties have produced such an absorbing spectacle than the North West derby between Manchester United and Liverpool, and today’s fixture was no exception. As the two most successful sides in English football went head to head, all eyes were on Old Trafford.
After a poor result midweek in the Champions League against Rangers and a few dodgy results on the road, Manchester United had everything to prove against their arch rivals. In similar fashion, Liverpool have struggled to get going this season with just five points in four games. Form aside, all the right ingredients were there for a mouth watering exhibition at the home of the Red Devils.
In truth the game started poorly; Liverpool sat deep and rarely looked to attack whilst Manchester United dominated possession but did very little with it. The first chance of the game fell to Nani, although the Portuguese winger steered his effort wide of the goal. Nani’s exceptional pace was undoubtedly causing full-back Paul Konchesky problems down the left side; however it was Dimitar Berbatov (photo) who would spark the game to life just as half time loomed. The Bulgarian scored his fifth goal of the season with a header from Ryan Giggs’ corner. Fernardo Torres will no doubt be disappointed with his efforts to mark the United striker who leapt comfortable to head past Pepe Reina.
On the hour mark, Berbatov netted again. This time through an audacious over-head kick which will surely be a contender for goal of the season come May. The game looked done and dusted although Liverpool were soon handed a route back into the game as Johnny Evans brought down Fernando Torres inside the box. Gerrard stepped up and calmly stroked the ball past Edwin van der Sar in the United goal.
Another clumsy foul, minutes later, this time from John O’Shea, gave Liverpool a dangerous free-kick just outside the penalty area. O’Shea was lucky not to have seen red as he consciously prevented a possible goal scoring opportunity by pulling down Torres. Steven Gerrard stepped up once again, cleverly slipping the ball through an unorganised Manchester United wall. 2-2.
The game was to have another twist however, as late on Dimitar Berbatov rose once more, beating Jamie Carragher in the air, and notching his first hat-trick in a red shirt.
In brief: Not only a huge three points for Manchester United, putting them joint second with Arsenal, but a thrilling game that shall live long in the memory.