Manchester United started on the front foot and opened the scoring through a familiar source, Robin van Persie latching onto Patrice Evra's cross after some fine work from Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley. The striker met it with a fine side-footed finish across Pepe Reina and into the far post to give United a deserved lead.
Liverpool were struggling to play the ball out from the back, and at the end of the half they almost went further behind, Rafael halting a counter-attack before getting on the end of a Michael Carrick pass and beating Glen Johnson before squaring to Van Persie. The Dutchman attempted a deft backheel, which Reina managed to claw out, before the onrushing Shinji Kagawa miscued his follow-up and Liverpool survived.
After half-time, United were forced to replace Ashley Young with Antonio Valencia after the England winger was injured in a collision with Daniel Agger, while Liverpool brought on new signing Daniel Sturridge for Lucas Leiva as they attempted to force the issue.
Although Sturridge was lively, Liverpool would soon find themselves 2-0 down as Danny Welbeck was brought down by Martin Skrtel while advancing towards the Liverpool goal. Van Persie's resultant free-kick was curled in for Patrice Evra to meet with a powerful header, which glanced off Nemanja Vidic on it's way into the net.
Liverpool looked far better in the second half following the introduction of Sturridge, and he soon had almost a dream Premier League debut as he pulled a goal back for the visitors. Steven Gerrard was allowed space for the first time in the match outside the area, and his low drive was parried by David de Gea, but Sturridge had followed up to put home an easy tap-in to put his side back in with a shout.
Despite those heroics, Sturridge would soon be the villain for his side, as later on a loose ball in the area fell to him with time, but his attempted curled finish was blazed wildly over to waste a huge chance to equalise for the visitors.
It was to be the final big chance of the game, with United managing to hang on for the victory. As has been the case so often with the Red Devils this season, they might have had a convincing win, but spurned early chances and then allowed their opponents to come back into the game. Nonetheless, they'll be delighted to get a derby game out of the way, which can always be problematic. Liverpool were awful in the first half, but if Daniel Sturridge can provide as much energy to their side as he did in the second, then they may have a very good signing indeed.