Liverpool are top of the table after picking up their third 1-0 win in three games -- but their latest win means a lot more than beating Aston Villa or Stoke. Defending champions (and the Reds' arch-rivals) Manchester United are Liverpool's latest victim, falling to their rivals in a league match for the first time in two years.
Daniel Sturridge wasted no time in getting things going when he made Ashley Young pay for trying to run the ball out of his own defensive zone by conceding a corner. From the set piece, the former Chelsea man struck with a header, flicking Daniel Agger's header past Tom Cleverley and Patrice Evra on the line and eventually leaving David de Gea with no chance.
United's reply involved both Daniel Welbeck and Robin van Persie missing the ball entirely as a corner kick scudded across the six-yard box -- although the visitors got into semi-threatening positions throughout the first half, Simon Mignolet was more than secure in the Liverpool goal. After that, frustration began to show.
Tom Cleverley, furious at Iago Aspas' challenge on right back Phil Jones -- and rightly so, because the injured Jones had to leave the field for Antonio Valencia shortly thereafter -- lunged in on Philippe Coutinho and earned a yellow card, the first of three for the visitors in the span of four minutes. At half time, it looked as though United might not even make it out of Anfield with their full complement of players ... let alone any points.
David Moyes' side redoubled their efforts after the break and began to cause real trouble for the Liverpool back line. Glen Johnson was forced to block a stinging shot from Young on a corner and then, later, Martin Skrtel did the same to Patrice Evra after the left back nearly caught Mignolet stranded after a cross.
There were no clear-cut chances for the visitors, and United were eventually forced to turn to Nani -- and more importantly Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez. If anyone was going to be able to haul the champions back into this match, it was going to be the combination of van Persie and Hernandez.
It was Nani who first troubled Mignolet, though, calling him into action with a vicious strike from 25 yards that forced the goalkeeper to punch clear, despite the shot being hit virtually straight at him. Evra had collided with Johnson just moments before, too, eventually forcing the Liverpool fullback off for Andre Wisdom.
United were still trailing in the final minutes, but Van Persie had an opportunity to close that gap after being slipped in by Chicharito. The striker slashed his effort into the side-netting, however, and that was the visitors' last serious chance of the game ... and Liverpool had their first major scalp of the year.
Liverpool (4-3-3): Simon Mignolet; Jose Enrique, Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel, Glen Johnson (Andre Wisdom, 79'); Lucas Leiva, Jordan Henderson Steven Gerrard; Philippe Coutinho (Luis Alberto, 84'), Daniel Sturridge, Iago Aspas (Raheem Sterling, 60').
Goals from: Sturridge, 4'.
Manchester United (4-4-1-1): David de Gea; Patrice Evra, Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Phil Jones (Antonio Valencia, 37'); Ashley Young (Nani, 63'), Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley, Ryan Giggs (Javier Hernandez, 73') , Danny Welbeck; Robin van Persie.