Robin van Persie and Patrice Evra scored, and Manchester United held on after Daniel Sturridge's goal for Liverpool
For the second time this season, Manchester United have beaten Liverpool 2-1 and move 10 points above Manchester City at the top of the table. Roberto Mancini's side play Arsenal later this afternoon but this could yet be seen as a decisive afternoon in the title race. For an hour United were on top but didn't make the most of their chances and almost paid for it after Daniel Sturridge's goal. In the end, though, United probably deserved the win but Brendan Rodgers will take encouragement from the way his side fought back. It does feel a bit of a damning indictment of the league's quality that United could run away with it but that's what spending £24m on Robin van Persie does for you. Thanks for reading. Bye.
90 min+4: Now Liverpool can't get the ball out of their own corner. United are almost there. They're killing the game. It's surely done. In his frustration, Agger is booked.
90 min+2: Another let-off for United. A looping cross from the left finds Suarez unmarked in the middle. He doesn't realise how much time he has or that Borini is behind him and his rushed header goes straight at De Gea.
90 min+1: This would have been sensational from Van Persie, who scoops a backheel towards goal from Valencia's cross. Reina saves well.
90 min: This is so wasteful from Sturridge. He's picked out from a quick free-kick and gets in behind Ferdinand. However he has little support and is forced away from goal but instead of holding the ball up he shoots into the side-netting. He was never scoring from there. There will be four minutes of added time.
89 min: Liverpool are camped in United's half now. There's nowhere for United to go.
86 min: Sturridge is causing havoc in the United area again and Cleverley has to dive in to stop Suarez having a pop from the edge of the area. Suddenly United are hanging on! How has this happened?
85 min: What a chance for Daniel Sturridge! It all came from a preposterous scramble involving Suarez, who sashayed into the United area, bundling his way through, and forcing two or three defenders to stop him. Rafael had to be very careful not to concede a penalty and eventually the ball squirted to the left for Sturridge, who leaned back and skied it with his right foot.
84 min: The following has happened in the last few minutes:
80 min: And now Jordan Henderson replaces Joe Allen.
79 min: Chris Smalling replaces Nemanja Vidic, who seems to have a knock.
77 min: United are trying to shut up shop now and Phil Jones replaces Shinji Kagawa. Danny Welbeck will move to the left of midfield.
76 min: Now Johnson is booked for tripping Evra from behind.
75 min: Eventually the free-kick is whipped in to the United area by Gerrard. It's headed behind by Vidic. Goal-kick to Manchester United. But of course! "The weight and height of United's passing is awful at the moment," says Nick Williamson. "Too many flicks in the air inviting contact and/or passes fired at team mates' necks rather than feet. Need to sort that and keep comfortable possession to take the fire out of Liverpool."
73 min: Evra is booked for bringing down Downing on the right. For a moment it seemed that Downing was going to be booked for diving, but Webb decided otherwise.
72 min: I fancy United might need a third here. They're becoming increasingly sloppy and Liverpool sense this is their moment. United give the ball away, following the Liverpool method, and Sturridge tees up Borini for a volley which loops not too far wide from the edge of the area.
70 min: Liverpool aren't out of this at all. Suarez and Allen combine to find Sturridge on the left, up against an isolated Ferdinand. He unleashes the stepovers and works space for the shot, but can only fire the ball past the near post. He should have done better. But there's hope for Liverpool and palpable nerves in the United ranks.
68 min: Johnson cuts in from the left, on to his right foot, and fizzes one wide of De Gea's near post from a fair way out.
67 min: "If you look on the replay, Evra's header actually heads backwards before it hits Vidic meaning he was behind the ball and, thus, not offside," says Jesse Galdston. Yes, this.
66 min: Having seen the second United goal again, it might well be Vidic's because Evra's header didn't seem to be going in.
64 min: What a save from Pepe Reina to deny Kagawa. Once again Liverpool were caught out trying to be too clever inside their own half. Welbeck charged forward and although his pass to Rafael was cut out it broke nicely for Kagawa who tried to shape one past Reina from the edge of the area with his instep. Reina flies through the air and pushes it behind.
62 min: Raheem Sterling is replaced by Fabio Borini. Sterling hasn't done much at all. "A United fan here but if Vidic got the last touch and was in front of Evra, shouldn't that goal have been ruled out for offside?" says Prahalad Bhat. "Sure, it was going in anyway, but by the letter of the law I think that was offside.Any thoughts?" I don't know, I'd need to see it again.
61 min: Van Persie's free-kick deflects through the wall and to Reina. What a let-down.
60 min: Van Persie is pulled to the floor by Gerrard just outside the Liverpool area. He rather played for that one but it was a free-kick.
59 min: Fabio Borini is going to come on for Liverpool shortly.
It's on! It is on! It was magnificent play from Gerrard in midfield as he robbed Carrick and then smashed a fierce low effort towards the bottom-right corner from 25 yards out. De Gea got down to push it out - but not wide, and Sturridge was on hand to slam home the rebound. Well, we thought Liverpool would score.
55 min: It doesn't matter how pretty your passing is if you defend as wretchedly as that from set-pieces.
Patrice Evra is a goal machine. And he has probably never enjoyed a goal as much as this one, although it could possibly go down as Nemanja Vidic's. Van Persie curled the free-kick to the far post from the left and Liverpool's marking was all over the place. It's just so sloppy. There were two or three United players free at the far post, Evra met it and his low header deflected off Vidic and past Reina.
53 min: Martin Skrtel could have been off here. He got himself into an awful mess trying to deal with a long ball over the top from Evra towards Welbeck, who the Slovakian clumsily hauled down outside the area. He was the last man but Webb only books him, deciding the ball might have run through to Reina. Anyway it's a free-kick to United. From which...
52 min: What a chance for Andre Wisdom. Suarez skips away from Carrick in the middle of the pitch and releases Wisdom in behind Evra on the right. He's clean through on goal but gets a nosebleed, slipping as he shoots and sending the ball embarrassingly wide. Liverpool already look better with Sturridge on.
49 min: The less said about that free-kick from Van Persie, the better.
48 min: Kagawa finds space between the lines after Allen switched off and is brought down by the Liverpool midfielder around 30 yards out. It's made for Van Persie.
47 min: Sturridge is on the ball immediately, and is allowed a ludicrous amount of space in front of United's back four. He could shoot but instead tries to slip a pass through to Suarez. There's no way through. Up the other end, Welbeck shoots well wide.
46 min: We're off again. Antonio Valencia has replaced Ashley Young, who picked up a knock in the first half, while Lucas has been replaced by Daniel Sturridge. At least Rodgers has been proactive, because Liverpool were feeble in the first half. "Liverpool subdued, Gerrard more so. Suarez has also been quiet but has 2 or 3 covering him every time, especially for the little push ball to himself," says Tony Nolan. "I have a feeling the most likely source of inspiration for Liverpool, if there is to be one, will be Johnson who, for all his faults, has the important characteristic of believing his ability and the courage to show it Man Utd really are good at these games against the Liverpools, Arsenals and Tottenhams though, although it's not pretty to watch. They harry and hound the opposition into a state of confusion."
It's not been a great game and Manchester United haven't been at their best. But they have Robin van Persie, so they're winning and it really should be more than 1-0.
45 min+3: Lucas is booked for persistent fouling after bringing down Young. "First half has certainly lived up to the bill of a mid-table side visiting Old Trafford and not offering a threat," says Luke Garratt. Indeed Liverpool only look threatening when Suarez has it and he's been having a poor game.
45 min+1: As it turns out, in his attempts to score the rebound Kagawa caught Reina with an elbow to the head so there's a stoppage in play while he gets treatment.
45 min: United should be out of sight and this could prove a pivotal moment in the game. It all started from a Liverpool attack, Rafael robbing the ineffective Sterling. His sense of adventure saw him continue his run and Carrick effortlessly picked him out with a brilliant pass over Johnson. His touch was superb and he played it across to Van Persie, whose backheel from close range was cleared off the line by Skrtel, before the ball was hacked away from the onrushing Kagawa.
43 min: "Jose in the stands with his hood up looks like darth sidious," says Keith Tucker. "May the force be with Liverpool."
41 min: Tom Cleverley goes so close to scoring an absolute stunner. Young's cross was only cleared as far as Cleverley on the left side of the area and he met it full on the volley, his effort screaming inches past the far post. Reina didn't move.
39 min: Suarez finds Gerrard on the edge of the area. Gerrard tries to play it back to him. Goal-kick to Manchester United. Liverpool haven't shown up at all as an attacking force and sloppiness from their best players is hardly helping.
38 min: "Has a team ever won the top division in their country wearing gingham?" asks Harry Tuttle. "Are United on the verge of a huge first?"
36 min: At last, Liverpool have a shot and inevitably it's from Suarez, who has been unusually quiet so far. Off a long throw, he backs into Ferdinand in the area and then when the ball sits up nicely he thwacks a volley miles off-target from a tight angle. It would have taken a special strike from there.
35 min: United are starting to work Liverpool over here. Cleverley spots Welbeck in between Wisdom and Skrtel on the edge of the area. He goes past Skrtel as if he wasn't there but blasts his shot high over the bar from 15 yards out.
33 min: Ashley Young has trotted back on to the pitch rather gingerly. And as he returns to the pitch, United almost double their lead. It's another awful mistake by Liverpool in their own half, this time Allen giving it away. They're just asking for it. Welbeck breaks into the area and looks to have a clear sight of goal but his shot is blocked by Agger.
31 min: Jose Mourinho is in the stands at Old Trafford. His Real Madrid team, of course, face United in the Champions League but will he be there? They drew 0-0 with Osasuna last night. And while we're talking about Jose, look at this story. What's he up to? What's he planning?
30 min: Ashley Young is down after a heavy collision with Agger. If anything it looked like a foul on Agger but it's Young who's ended up holding his knee.
29 min: I don't believe Liverpool have had a shot yet.
28 min: "As David Brent once (nearly) said, the single most important thing for a football club is people, investment in people," says Simon McMahon. "RVP. QED."
27 min: This could have been game over (more or less). Young was allowed to drift in from the right and roll a pass through to Van Persie. Where have the Liverpool defenders gone? Van Persie could take a touch but instead opts for the instant shot again, only to waft this effort over the bar from the edge of the area. It just bobbled up before he hit it, to be fair.
25 min: Van Persie is so ruthless that you find yourself shouting "GOAL!" whenever the ball finds him in space in the area.
24 min: Liverpool look for a swift response, Wisdom bursting up the right at some pelt. He swings a low cross into the area but Vidic cuts it out before it can reach Suarez. "What do you make of Rafael's development as an arrière droitthis season?" asks Alex Netherton. I could see him becoming a pivote.
22 min: Van Persie is nearly in again after a poor pass from Gerrard but the Liverpool captain denies him and redeems himself with a fine recovery challenge. "Rio seems to have lost a step," says Richard Johnson. "I was thinking he had given up his trade mark goal celebration, but no, it just took him a lot longer to get there than it used to."
21 min: Just like against West Ham last week,Van Persie had done very little in the opening 20 minutes. That's why he's a genius. He's just always looking for that crucial yard of space, which he exploits to the maximum.
You can't keep Robin van Persie quiet for long. This is an excellent goal and hadn't really looked like coming, even though United were just about shading it. With Cleverley at the heart of a lovely one-touch move, Liverpool found themselves chasing shadows and suddenly in trouble as the ball was worked out to the left for Evra. He had an age to drill a low cross into the area where Van Persie was on hand to smash a first-time shot low past Reina. That was just so clinical and his movement was brilliant. He stepped forward and then quickly moved back, so by the time the cross came in Agger was nowhere near him.
17 min: Welbeck hares down the right flank, reaching a long pass from Rafael before Agger. He cuts inside, across the area and finds Cleverley. He touches it on for Van Persie, whose shot from an angle is easily blocked by Skrtel. He might have to make a few more of those this afternoon.
16 min: On the edge of United's area, Suarez tries to do to Nemanja Vidic what he did to Clint Hill. Nemanja Vidic is not Clint Hill.
15 min: I'm not sure if United have enough width at the moment. Kagawa is a good player but where does he fit in this team? Should Valencia - who is in a horrible run of form admittedly - be playing instead of Welbeck? They look a bit lopsided.
12 min: Carrick pings a pass over Skrtel's head and towards Welbeck. Skrtel gets in a horrible position but Welbeck's heavy control allows Reina to snaffle the ball. United are starting to get on top without really creating any serious chances yet.
10 min: Teflon's Pepe Reina makes one of those errors that no one ever really seems to pin on him for some reason, trying to play the ball out from the back on the ground and playing it straight to a United player. Fortunately for Reina, as the ball pings about between a gaggle of United players, none of them can really get it properly under control and Van Persie's shot is harmlessly deflected into his arms.
9 min: But now Kagawa is in the game. He isolates Wisdom on the left but the young right-back deals with him well, albeit at the expense of a corner, which is an abject waste from Young.
8 min: There's not a lot going on yet. Liverpool are making it very difficult for United to get Van Persie or Kagawa into the game, Gerrard, Allen and Lucas working very hard indeed.
6 min: Suarez dupes Evra with a cute dummy, letting the ball run on to Downing on the right touchline. He lopes forward in that famous Downing style and then prods a pass into the United area towards Suarez, who had completely got free of Evra. Fortunately for United, the underrated Carrick had tracked his run and was on hand to mop up in composed style.
5 min: "I recently heard an interview with Dean Saunders on Radio5 on the occasion of his unveiling as Wolves manager and became absolutely convinced he is in fact a Ricky Gervais creation," says Gerry Scott. "He told a long anecdote about how when he first shipped up at Doncaster the groundsman told it would took two days to cut the grass in a particular way. Saunders showed up early one day and did it in two hours after which the groundsman came up to him and thanked him for showing how to do his job properly. I look forward to the BBC series but I'm not sure it will really take off in America like the Office did."
4 min: The first real attack of note from United. Kagawa is sent speeding down the left and tries to find Van Persie in the middle but his cross is deflected into Reina's arms. There's no shape to this yet. They're both feeling each other out at the moment. Liverpool look confident enough.
2 min: Suarez gets his first touch, as the boos from the United fans signify. He momentarily looks dangerous down the left but eventually gives the ball away trying to find Sterling. He should just go it alone. It's been working well in recent weeks.
And we're off! Manchester United get the game going, attacking from left to right in the first half. There's a cracking atmosphere inside Old Trafford. Just so you know, Patrice Evra and Luis Suarez shook hands. Someone should tell these lads. "Not sure Liverpool will lose any collective sleep over Sahin failing to fire," says Ian Copestake. "He admitted he found the pace of the Premiership too much for him, which is perhaps something the Bundesliga should be worried about."
The teams are in the tunnel. Liverpool's players are wearing black tracksuit tops over their black kits. Manchester United aren't bothering with such fripperies. "Liverpool fan here, but I'm still predicting a loss. "I don't think Allen can actually protect a ball all that well, and would rather see Henderson in the advance role in front of Gerrard and Lucas," says Tom Colohue. "United aren't set up for width. They're set up to get behind Johnson and attack Wisdom. The right back zone is where we'll lose the game. Chance to win? Well that depends on Suarez. Vidic is beatable due to speed of reactions, but I think Ferdinand will try to take Suarez on head on. Downing and Sterling can come inside, but I think Rafael will be more than a match for whoever is on the left. Their left back zone will be our strong point."
"Is James Richardson the Finchy of the Guardian?" asks Rajiv. He's more of a Keith.
"So who is the David Brent of the MBM office?" asks Simon McMahon. "Smyth? Murray? You strike me as more of a Tim. And Glendenning has to be Gareth." I bet Sean Ingle can play a tune on the guitar.
"Barry, formerly of East Enders now of Daz adverts, is photo bombing the mbm pic," says Brendan Coyne. "He's just behind Suarez in a proto-Fellaini wig. If the game turns out to be a sterile, turgid affair, you can copy and paste that."
I'll copy and paste it when I like, thank you very much.
The Guardian has obtained exclusive footage of Brendan Rodgers' team-talk. It was rather interesting to read Josh McEachran say in this interview that he learned nothing on loan at Swansea last season, while Nuri Sahin made no impact at all at Liverpool. And has headed off to German champions Borussia Dortmund instead. Liverpool might be a bit worried about that.
And here are the teams. United pair Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic together in defence for the first time since September, while Danny Welbeck gets the nod ahead of Javier Hernandez in attack. Antonio Valencia is on the bench, with Shinji Kagawa preferred instead. It's difficult to know precisely what formation United will play - it's quite possible Danny Welbeck will start from the left, with Kagawa given a free role. For Liverpool, Daniel Sturridge is left to work on his dance moves on the bench.
Manchester United: De Gea; Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Young, Cleverley, Carrick, Kagawa; Welbeck, Van Persie. Subs: Amos, Jones, Valencia, Anderson, Giggs, Smalling, Hernandez.
Liverpool: Reina; Wisdom, Skrtel, Agger, Johnson; Lucas, Allen, Gerrard; Sterling, Suarez, Downing. Subs: Jones, Henderson, Sturridge, Carragher, Borini, Shelvey, Robinson.
Referee: Howard Webb.
Well if it isn't a meeting between the biggest club in the Premier League (according to Teamwork's Daniel Sturridge) and Manchester United. There, that should get everyone gnashing their teeth straight away and we've barely even started. Well done me!
Of course, it doesn't take much in this fixture. We'll ignore the ugliness that marred the games between these two sides last season because, really, no one wants to go there again but it is impossible not to assume someone's going to be in a hot funk by 3.30pm this afternoon. After all, Howard Webb is refereeing and you know what that means: <del>appreciation of some top-class officiating</del> paranoia-fuelled conspiracy theories.
The fixture at Anfield was a heated affair although it started out in most convivial fashion. Sir Alex Ferguson and Brendan Rodgers even had a handshake. But then the match started, Jonjo Shelvey was sent off for nobbling Jonny Evans, Jonny Evans was fortunate not to be sent off for nobbling Jonjo Shelvey, Jonjo Shelvey lost the run of himself with Ferguson, Jonjo Shelvey said "Where I come from people don't grass people up to get someone sent off", everyone wondered whether that is actually the case in Romford and eventually Liverpool were unfortunate to lose 2-1 after a controversial late penalty from Robin van Persie. It was a typically quiet afternoon with few talking points. Everyone left the stadium happy, content that they'd witnessed another fine afternoon of Association Football.
Maybe everything will pass off smoothly this afternoon. Then again, maybe not, and Liverpool will win thanks to a Luis Suarez handball deep into Fergie Time. Who knows? One thing's for sure, Liverpool certainly haven't had much to shout about at Old Trafford since Andrea Dossena inspired them to a 4-1 win there in 2009. They have been beaten on every visit to Old Trafford since then, although apart from the 1-0 defeat in the FA Cup in 2011, Liverpool have scored in each of those matches. With Suarez in outstanding form, you'd fancy them to do so again. Problem is, you'd fancy Robin van Persie to score more. That really was one well-judged phone call Ferguson made in the summer.
Of equal concern to Liverpool will be the fact they have not beaten anyone in the top half this season, managing five wins and five draws. The jury remains firmly out on Rodgers although victory today would go some way to convincing people that he really is as good as he thinks he is. You never know because while Ferguson has been making out that he doesn't even look at Liverpool's league position that's just him poking Manchester City in the chest. Even if this is 1st v 8th, this is the match United daren't lose.
Kicking off: 1.31pm.