Manchester United temporarily extended their English Premier League lead to 10 points after disposing of Liverpool 2-1 at Old Trafford.
Robin van Persie’s 19th-minute goal helped Sir Alex Ferguson’s team take a stranglehold that they never looked like relinquishing.
Although Daniel Sturridge pulled one back after Nemanja Vidic had inadvertently doubled United’s advantage, the hosts were resilient enough to cope with Liverpool’s strong finish.
United moved 10 points clear of main title challengers Manchester City ahead of the champions’ encounter at Arsenal later on Sunday.
The game began quietly as neither side could seize the initiative but the first chance of note was put away with lethal precision by van Persie.
Following a smooth passage of build-up play from the home side, the ball was shifted out to Patrice Evra on the left.
The Frenchman drilled a low cross into the area that was turned into the net first time by United’s Dutch maestro for his 17th league goal of the season.
The impressive Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley came close to doubling United’s advantage in the first half as the hosts threatened every time they poured forward.
It required a desperate clearance from Martin Skrtel to prevent van Persie scoring his second with a back-heel just before half-time.
Lucas Leiva was replaced by Sturridge at half-time, which brought greater vibrancy to the visitors’ attack.
But United extended their advantage after 54 minutes with a free-kick following a poor challenge on Welbeck from Skrtel.
Evra was allowed to rise unchallenged to meet van Persie’s whipped cross at the back post and his header deflected off Vidic and into the net.
David de Gea’s technique against long-range shots will come under scrutiny again following Liverpool’s reply three minutes later.
Steven Gerrard did well to create space on the outside of the box and his drilled shot was heading for the corner, but the Spaniard should have done better than paw it into the danger area, allowing Sturridge to put away the rebound.
Gerrard led Liverpool’s late rally, in which the lively Sturridge came close to putting away several half-chances, but United held onto their lead to lay down another title marker.
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