Amid all the issues surrounding the game, the major piece of team news was provided by Sir Alex Ferguson’s omission of Nemanja Vidic as a precautionary measure, after the Serbian had already - for the first time since last November - completed two full games in a week. Rio Ferdinand returned to partner Jonny Evans in his stead, while Ryan Giggs stood in as captain.
After a strong start from the visitors, it was Giggs who had the game's first opening. Nani made progress down the left flank and fed the ball inside for Shinji Kagawa, who in turn teed up his captain for a poked, 20-yard effort which narrowly skirted by Pepe Reina's top corner.
Liverpool's riposte was to quickly seize control of the game. Rafael twice had to make alert defensive headers, once re-adjusting superbly after Anders Lindegaard had palmed out Luis Suarez's drilled cross, then nodding over his own crossbar as Fabio Borini lurked with intent at the back post.
Sections of the home support were celebrating moments later, but in error as Steven Gerrard drilled a low shot just past Lindegaard’s post after a well-worked short corner.
United were rattled, and just before the quarter-hour the visitors’ defensive ranks were breached again, but a heavy first touch from Borini took him away from goal and allowed Evans to take the sting out of the Italian’s subsequent shot.