However, any thoughts the points were safe were short lived as, three minutes later, Gerrard won the ball aggressively in midfield and, with Webb playing on, forced a diving save out of David De Gea. Sturridge was first to the rebound to reduce the arrears with a goal on his Barclays Premier League debut for his new club.
The Reds regained some composure and would have netted again but for a fine save by Reina. The Spaniard was clearly showing no ill-effects from his first-half injury as he threw himself to his left to beat away a Kagawa curler after build-up play involving Rafael and Welbeck.
Liverpool remained a threat with Johnson lashing wide and Sturridge also firing off target after taking on Rio Ferdinand when picked out by Suarez's crossfield pass. The next opportunity was all of United's own making, though, as Evra's stray pass was touched by Sturridge to substitute Fabio Borini who, thankfully, dropped his volley wide.
Sir Alex brought on Phil Jones and Chris Smalling for Kagawa and Vidic as the match entered a nervous finale. With five minutes remaining, Rafael stopped Suarez in his tracks but the ball fell kindly to Sturridge, who lent back and shot into the crowd when an equaliser looked on the cards.
After Johnson survived a second yellow card for a clear foul on Valencia, and Sturridge shot into the side-netting, van Persie's flick from a Valencia centre again brought the best out of Reina. Suarez had one final attempt with a tame header at De Gea but was unable to continue his run of goalscoring form.
The Reds managed to hold out and clinch three welcome points that extended the lead at the top of the Barclays Premier League to 10 points - until, that is, Manchester City's win at Arsenal later in the day.