Van Persie steered Ashley Young's delicate through ball over the top following an impressive burst forward by Cleverley but Young took a heavy knock soon afterwards following a tangle with Daniel Agger. Then a sloppy pass by Joe Allen allowed Welbeck a great opportunity, but the forward's shot was deflected by the sliding Agger. It did not affect the bubbly Welbeck's confidence as he fired another effort off target from an angle after beating Martin Skrtel.
Liverpool failed to provide much attacking threat in the first half, aside from an ambitious volley by danger-man Luis Suarez that flew well off target, and the lead perhaps should have been doubled before the interval.
Firstly, Cleverley blasted a volley inches the wrong side of Pepe Reina's left-hand post after Young's cross came off Allen's head to create the opening. Secondly, Michael Carrick produced an exquisite pass into the path of Rafael and, despite stumbling, the full-back nudged the ball into the path of van Persie. The leading scorer tried a cheeky back-heel that was blocked by Skrtel before Shinji Kagawa collided with Reina.
The keeper lay prone in his box as the Merseysiders attacked and referee Howard Webb sparked fury from the crowd when he stopped play only when United won possession and looked to take advantage at the other end.
Reina was fine to continue after treatment but Daniel Sturridge replaced Lucas and Antonio Valencia came on for Young in time for the