Saturday 15th January 2005 (12:45pm)
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Morientes started - but the other 10 players didn't help him much

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Liverpool 0-1 Man Utd

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Rooney 21

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Wayne Rooney was Manchester United's hero after an error of judgement by Liverpool goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek allowed the visitors to complete a double over their north-west rivals.

United showed the class and quality required to beat Liverpool both at home and away for the second time in three seasons, but they were also grateful for Dudek's mistake.

The defeat has made Liverpool's chances of qualifying for the Champions League that much tougher, while United's form will mean that Chelsea or Arsenal dare not slip up ahead of them in the race for the title.

United finished with 10 men after Wes Brown was sent off, and it was former Everton striker Rooney's first-half goal on his return to Merseyside which clinched the points.

He was abused, booked and had a mobile phone thrown at him, but Rooney's hopeful 25-yard strike was decisive.

And nothing Liverpool could throw at United's defence for the remainder of the game was able to disrupt the outstanding Mikael Silvestre.

Liverpool had Fernando Morientes making his debut, but he could do nothing to change the course of this match, one Dudek will want to forget.

He was castigated last season for errors which gave United victory in this match, and this time at Anfield he managed to dive over Rooney's match winner.

Both Rio Ferdinand and Ryan Giggs failed fitness tests on hamstring injuries before the game, and it meant Brown was drafted into the centre of United's defence.

Roy Carroll was recalled in goal ahead of Tim Howard, despite the Ulsterman's controversial howler against Spurs.

Liverpool were without Steve Finnan, which meant they were forced to break up the partnership of Jamie Carragher and Sami Hyypia at the heart of defence.

Carragher was switched to a right-back role which allowed Rafael Benitez to give Mauricio Pellegrino his debut in the centre of defence.

But the defensive change unsettled Liverpool from the start, and Pellegrino's lack of match fitness and pace was constantly evident.

United could sense such unease and set about Liverpool with a fierce, physical performance which had the hosts continually on the back foot.

Luis Garcia struggled against such high-tempo, physical opponents while Morientes - who had not played a full match since last season's Champions League final for Monaco - unsurprisingly found the speed of the game tough.

United, through Ronaldo, Louis Saha and Darren Fletcher, threatened to undo Liverpool, while Rooney, heckled every time he touched the ball, dropped deep on the left and found space to worry Carragher.

Silvestre did well to deflect a Steven Gerrard corner away from Morientes, the Liverpool captain being serenaded by the United fans with "You should come to a big club".

Milan Baros made a powerful right wing run which won a corner, sending Morientes climb to send a header straight at Carroll.

But it was Rooney who broke the deadlock after 21 minutes when he picked up possession 30 yards out and unleashed a low drive into the bottom corner, with Dudek embarrassed in front of the Kop.

Rooney, who had been happy to take part in the banter with his fellow Scousers, ran to celebrate in front of the Kop.

United almost scored again after 31 minutes when Gerrard lost possession in his own box and the ball was switched back to Roy Keane, who thundered a drive against the underside of the bar from 20 yards.

Liverpool were struggling, and Ronaldo saw a low drive from outside the box glide past Dudek's left-hand post.

Brown and Carragher were both booked, but United were stronger in the tackle and when they had possession, with Keane dictating the play from deep for much of the first period.

Luis Garcia fired over early in the second half, and there were strong appeals for a penalty when Heinze tackled Morientes in the area, but referee Bennett waved play on.

Brown had been in outstanding form, but one wild lunge at Riise threatened to change the course of the game.

Referee Bennett, having already shown one yellow card to the United man, produced another and then the red and United were down to 10 men.

Ferguson sent on John O'Shea a minute later to shore up the defence and sacrificed Ronaldo.

But chances were few for the home side.

Two minutes from time Nunez crossed from the right, but Luis Garcia - coming in from the left - could not get a clean connection and scuffed his effort into the side-netting.

Carragher then saw a 20-yard effort blocked by Carroll, after Gerrard had declined the invitation to shoot from a free-kick, instead playing the ball square for his team-mate.

That was as close at the dispirited home side came to a leveller as United celebrated another Anfield victory.

Press Association

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Liverpool: Dudek, Carragher, Pellegrino, Hyypia, Traore,Luis Garcia, Gerrard, Hamann, Riise, Baros, Morientes. Subs:Nunez, Sinama Pongolle, Biscan, Warnock, Harrison.

Man Utd: Carroll, Phil Neville, Brown, Silvestre, Heinze,Fletcher, Keane, Scholes, Ronaldo, Rooney, Saha. Subs: Howard,Bellion, Miller, O'Shea, Fortune.

Referee: S Bennett (Kent)

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Match Report filed: 15th Jan 2005