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That said, Sir Alex Ferguson’s men were twice behind at the Reebok Stadium and were it not for a brilliant first-half strike from Nani and Michael Owen’s glancing header just minutes after coming off the bench in the second half with United 2-1 down, this could have been a more damaging result.
United are clearly not in full flow. But there are a number of players to return from injury, while others are yet to hit top form. There was some good football played towards the end of the first half and the Reds undoubtedly dominated possession throughout. United are three points behind Chelsea and in second place, so it’s not panic stations. However, Sir Alex’s side will not want to let too many opportunities to check Chelsea’s rampaging start to the season slip away.
It was the same starting eleven that defeated Liverpool 3-2 at Old Trafford last Sunday. There was no place again for Rio Ferdinand, who missed the Merseysiders’ visit with a virus - he wasn't on the bench, reportedly being saved for Wednesday’s trip to Valencia. Ryan Giggs, who went off in the second half against Liverpool suffering from similar symptoms, recovered to take his place on the left wing, although he was later taken off with a hamstring strain that will keep him out for a number of weeks. Also returning to his regular spot was Sir Alex, who missed the midweek Carling Cup win over Scunthorpe for a scouting mission in Spain.
The United manager’s team-talk at the Reebok Stadium will have centred around concentration and ruthlessness, qualities lacking on away jaunts