The two sides dished up a memorable see-saw encounter as Liverpool twice came from behind, only for Drinkwater's late intervention to take the trophy back to Old Trafford for the first time in almost four decades.
A breathtaking match started in style when Rodrigo Possebon - with two scorching goals already under his belt this pre-season - drilled just over the crossbar from 20 yards with only two minutes gone.
Andras Simon should have put the Merseysiders ahead shortly afterwards when he burst through and rounded Ron-Robert Zieler, but he allowed the chance to go begging.
Fraizer Campbell then passed up a similarly gilt-edged chance, but he atoned just before the half-hour mark by laying on the opening goal for Tom Cleverley.
Less than a week after scoring on his non-competitive senior debut in South Africa, Cleverley continued his hot streak by slotting home a close-range finish after Campbell had worked space down the right wing.
United weren't able to savour the advantage for long, however, as Liverpool striker Nathan Eccleston smashed a scorching 25 yard effort into Zieler's top corner.
A breathless first half ended with the scores level, but only six minutes of the second period were required before United moved ahead again. Once again Campbell was involved, crossing for David Gray to tap in and restore the Reds' lead.