Old Tafford: Yet again, Manchester United pick up a win despite not playing to their best. That's six in a row for the Red Devils. Goals from Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata and Robin Van Persie were enough to see the home team ease past Liverpool. David De Gea put in a man of the match performance with some spectacular saves denying Sterling and Balotelli on multiple occasions.
FULL TIME: Manchester United 3-0 Liverpool
90' - United dominating possession in the dying minutes of this match. That must frustrate the Liverpool fans.
89' - Falcao curls the ball straight into the wall of the resulting free-kick. The Colombian then blasts the rebound again into the wall.
88' - Toure fouls Herrera who tuned beautifully to change direction. Free-kick to United in a dangerous position. Falcao stands over it.
86' - RvP's left-footed volley tipped over by Jones with a one handed save.
85' - And again!
Markovic slides Balotelli through behind Evans. But De Gea rushes out to deny the Italian for third time today. The announcer soon names him the Man of the Match for today. Well deserved.
83' - Falcao and RvP combine nicely but they can't produce the end result. Jones collects.
82' - De Gea at it again! The keeper dives low to his right to deny Balotell's right-footed shot.
80' - Young's pressure on Toure deep inside Liverpool half pays off. He scoffs a clearance, Evans picks the ball and plays it to RvP. The Dutch lets one fly but Jones bends low and makes the easy collection.
78' - Captain's armband has been handed to Michael Carrick. United not letting up here. They want the 4th goal.
76' - Louis van Gaal takes his captain off to give him a well deserved rest. Rooney off. Falcao on.
73' - Mario Balotelli is booked for a foul on Phil Jones.
71'- GOAL! RVP!
Rooney's cross is cleared as far as Mata, who rolls the ball right for van Persie to steer into an empty net with Jones beaten.
70'- Wilson is taken off for Herrera.
69'- Lazar Markovic is introduced in place of Alberto Moreno.
67'- De Gea denies Balotelli!
Sterling was thwarted by a timely challenge by Evans. Sterling steadied himself and set up Balotelli with a lovely pass. The Italian fired in a powerful shot that was saved by De Gea with a bit of help off the crossbar. Fine reflexes displayed by the Spaniard.
65'- Young teases Toure and fires in a left-footed cross that is easily collected by Jones.
62'- Valencia fizzes in a low cross that is give direction by RvP with a neat touch. Just wide off the post.
60' - An hour gone, United look very comfortable against their arch rivals here. Falcao warms up on the touchline.
58'- Rooney dispossesses Lovern in the middle of the park and plays a long ball to RvP, which is long and collected by Jones.
57'- Mario Balotelli being jeered by United fans for every touch he takes. They still haven't forgotten him flashing "why always me"?
55'- Young Wilson lets one fly from long range! Way off mark!
51'- RvP sets up Rooney who fires in a weak low left-footer that is easily collected by Jones. Rooney made a good run to get to the ball and had plenty of space. Definitely a missed chance.
50'- STERLING MISSES A SITTER!
Catastrophic defending from Jonny Evans as he makes a backpass leaving De Gea in no man's land. Sterling picks up the pass and can't slot it away despite being one-on-one with the keeper. He had too much time and too many options there. What a miss!
48'- Free kick to United as Morena fouls Fellaini. Mata to take. His delivery is poor and easily dealt with by Liverpool.
46'- Sterling hooks in a cross off his left foot for Henderson, who does well to lose Young and make the header. His effort is poor and sails into the crowd.
46'- Second half is underway
Mario Balotelli comes on for Lallana. This could get tasty.
HALF TIME: Manchester United 2-0 Liverpool
Wayne Rooney 12'
Juan Mata 40'
Manchester United go in 2-0 up at half-time against Liverpool. The visitors dominated the early proceedings of this match but Rooney's goal against the run of play changed the complexion of this match. Sterling was denied by De Gea on two occasion from close range. United got their second from a Mata header, who clearly looked off side. Liverpool would definitely can feel hard done by the decision of the linesman. Valencia has caused major problems to Allen on United's right creating most of the chances for the home team.
First half stats:
Man United 2-0 Liverpool HT: Possession: 54%-46% Shots: 3-7 Chances created: 2-6 Pass accuracy: 83%-79% Fouls: 9-4 pic.twitter.com/oaYenkSNLm
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 14, 2014
44'- Wayne Rooney collects a booking. Fourth United player to be cautioned today.
43'- Joey Barton's verdict on that poor decision from the linesman is out.
When you have only one job to do. You cannot get the basics so wrong. I cannot believe top class officials can miss something so blatant.
— Joseph Barton (@Joey7Barton) December 14, 2014
42'- The replay suggests Mata was clearly off-side. Liverpool unlucky to go two down here.
39'- GOAL! MATA!
The move started with Evans marching forward and laying the ball off to Young. The winger fired in a early cross that takes a slight touch of Persie's head and Mata is on hand near the far post to head the ball into the net on the first bounce.
38'- Rooney's delightful long ball finds Valencia on the right, who gets past Allen and fires in a low cross. Jones collects.
37'- Jonny Evans is goes into the ref's book for a late challenge on Coutinho. Third yellow card of the match for the Red Devils.
35'- United fans in good spirit, singing "20 times, 20 times Man United.." - a reminder to their bitter rivals of their trophy count. Great banter!
34'- Gerrard finds Moreno with an outrageous cross-field ball behind Valencia. But Moreno's first touch lets him down and gives Valencia time to recover and clear the ball.
32'- United keeping hold off the ball well with Rooney orchestrating their play from the middle.
30'- Valencia causing plenty of problems for Liverpool on the right. He is on a marauding run but Joe Allen unfairly blocks him. Yellow card!
26'- Valencia had acres of space on the right, but his cross was extremely poor and out Rooney, RvP and Wilson's reach.
25'- Glenn Johnson is struggling for Liverpool. Yes, he is off. Kolo Toure replaces the England right-back. Problems mount for the Scousers.
24'- De Gea again! The Spaniard denies Sterling who left Jones in his wake in the box with a delightful shimmy and fired a strong left-footer. But De Gea had marked the angels right and blocked the effort with his right hand.
21'- Jones picks up United's second yellow card as he clips Coutinho who was on a marauding run. United players need to be careful here - already two yellow cards.
20'- Liverpool's confidence seems to have taken a hit after they concdeded that first goal against the run of play.
16'- Brendan Rodgers is out of his seat. He is furiously noting things down on his pad.
15' - The home team is now growing in confidence after the first goal and with the crowd firmly behind them, looking to attack Liverpool at every oppotunity.
12'- GOAL! ROONEY!
Valencia tricks his way past two players on the right touchline. He squares the ball for Rooney, who strikes clean from the edge of the box with his right foot. OT erupts!
11- Lallana with a beautiful pass on the turn that set Sterling through on goal - De Gea narrowed the angle by rushing out of the blocks and made a great save.
10'- Nice little passage of play for Liverpool - but Coutinho tried to find Sterling with a pass off outside of his foot - too long for Sterling to chase.
8'- Valencia in possession on the right for United, he dashes past Moreno and lobs in a ball. But Liverpool steer it clear.
5'- Early yellow card for Marouane Fellaini for a rash challenge on Adam Lallana.
4'- Liverpool dominating the early exchanges in the match. United fans raising the volume inside the stadium to inspire the home team.
2'- Sloppy play from Fellaini as he gave away the ball inside United's half, but Liverpool can't capitalize.
1'- Early pressure from Liverpool deep inside the United half after Lallana forced a corner off Jones. United defence clear their lines.
1'- Liverpool get us underway at Old Trafford.
Both teams have made their way out on the pitch. The atmosphere inside Old Trafford is electric. This is the most important match on the football calender for the two sets of fans. Bragging rights on offer!
No points for guessing who Rio Ferdinand is predicting a win for in this match:
#MUFCvLFC what are your predictions people?? I'm going for 2-1 MUFC win! Loved the energy in the stadium playing in this fixture
— Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) December 14, 2014
Both team have taken their place in the tunnel. United in their traditional red and white kit, while Liverpool in their yellow away jersey.
Louis van Gaal: "They (Liverpool) are now in trouble and beating us, they can be in heaven. That is football."
Veteran sportswriter Paul Hayward shares a picture of the team-sheet from Old Trafford.
Man Utd-Liverpool teams pic.twitter.com/kOhNfWJPXT
— Paul Hayward (@_PaulHayward) December 14, 2014
Big news so from is the Liverpool do not have any recognized striker in their starting line-up. Also, Brendan Rodgers has dropped first-choice keeper Simon Mignolet.
Both teams for the match:
Liverpool: Jones; Skrtel, Lovren, Johnson, Moreno; Henderson, Allen, Gerrard, Coutinho, Lallana; Sterling.
Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Jones, Evans, Young; Carrick, Fellaini, Mata, Rooney; van Persie, Wilson
I'm still best man for Liverpool: Brendan Rodgers
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has declared that he remains the best man for the job despite disappointing recent results, in comments published by several British newspapers on Saturday.
Liverpool were knocked out of the Champions League by Basel in mid-week and are currently 15 points below leaders Chelsea in the Premier League table ahead of Sunday`s trip to Manchester United.
Defeat at Old Trafford would further compromise Liverpool`s hopes of securing a top-four finish and qualifying for next season`s Champions League, but Rodgers is confident that he will turn things around.
"I think the message from me is clear: I don`t think there would be anyone better to do the job here," said the Northern Irishman, whose side narrowly lost out to Manchester City in last season`s title race.
"Seven months ago we nearly won the title unexpectedly. I had time to work with players and we took them beyond where the club has been in a long time.
"This has been a difficult start with new players, less coaching time, young players. We are virtually starting again."
He added: "Criticism comes with the territory when you don`t win games. Football is very short-term. The same people who are criticising me now were maybe saying I couldn`t do anything wrong six or seven months ago.
"That is the way football works. You have to accept that as a manager and fight even harder to bring success. This period has ensured I will do that for sure."
Manchester United vs Liverpool - Preview
What a difference a year makes for Manchester United and Liverpool.
As the bitter rivals prepare to resume hostilities at Old Trafford on Sunday, a reversal in fortunes has taken place that barely seemed possible at this time last season.
Just 12 months ago, United`s title defence was in tatters and manager David Moyes was having to explain how he had managed to turn Alex Ferguson`s ferocious tiger of a team into an over-cautious kitten.
Liverpool, meanwhile, could do no wrong. The goals were flowing freely as manager Brendan Rodgers adopted a system that allowed Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge to fill their boots and Anfield rejoiced as some long-lost swagger returned.
In early December last year, United lost 1-0 at home to Everton and Newcastle United as the same players who had been runaway league champions the season before looked utterly shorn of belief.
Their pain was heightened as their arch-rivals steamed ahead.
A 3-1 win over Cardiff City courtesy of two goals from Suarez on Dec. 21 helped Liverpool go top of the table playing a brand of entertaining football more commonly seen at Old Trafford in recent seasons.
Twelve months, however, is a long time in football and two transfer windows is sufficient to bring about a revolution in an era when the stock of managers can rise meteorically and plummet like a stone after back-to-back wins or consecutive defeats.
Now it is United who are starting to strut. With Moyes a distant memory and the imposing figure of Dutchman Louis van Gaal at the helm, United have returned to form.
Five straight Premier League wins have lifted them to third in the table, just as Liverpool suffered a stupefying 0-0 draw at home to Sunderland last weekend that left them ninth.
Another lifeless draw at home to Basel in the Champions League on Tuesday dumped them out of the competition and left pundits to pick over the bones of a team who look the palest of shadows of last season`s outfit.
Former Liverpool defender Mark Lawrenson called them "rudderless" after their European failure, while another former stalwart Steve Nicol said the manager`s job was on the line.
Contrasting transfer-market strategies in which Liverpool looked to unearth hidden gems as United paid big for established talents are being touted as a simple explanation for their differing situations.
Liverpool sold Luis Suarez to Barcelona and replaced him with nine players of potential for 130 million pounds ($204 million), whereas United recruited high-profile names such as Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao from the top drawer.
As well as buying big, Van Gaal has restored a winning mentality at United that has not been sighted at Old Trafford since Alex Ferguson left the dug-out.
Rodgers, by contrast, seems uncertain of his best team, formation, or even tactical approach.
The gung-ho outlook that propelled them to within an inch of last season`s title proved largely unsuccessful at the start of the current campaign, while recently achieved defensive solidity has blunted attacking intent.
Part of the problem for Rodgers seems to be the attacking players he signed bare little resemblance in the way they play to the high-energy, high pressure game of the departed Suarez and the injured Daniel Sturridge.
Van Gaal, however, seems to have developed a system that mitigates for a lack of defensive steel and makes the most of the startling array of forwards United have at their disposal.
A series of injuries have also failed to mask the team`s obvious progress from last season, while the manager`s stature ensured the panic button was not pressed even when results were mixed at the start of the season.
Last March`s 3-0 victory for Liverpool at Old Trafford showcased all that was good about the Merseysiders and laid bare United`s shortcomings.
A repeat result on Sunday looks highly unlikely.