Sturridge gives Liverpool bragging rights at Anfield
Striker’s rich vein of form continues as champions United are beaten
Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge (number 15) scores against Manchester United during the Premier League game at Anfield. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA
Liverpool 1 Manchester United 0: Before kick-off, Anfield rose to acclaim Bill Shankly on the eve of what would have been his 100th birthday. Afterwards, Liverpool honoured his maxim of “If you are first you are first. If you are second you are nothing”, with a tense, feisty and absorbing victory over Manchester United. And first always feels better in these parts when it comes at the expense of United.
David Moyes’s search for an Anfield win continues. It is now 13 fruitless attempts for the United and former Everton manager and this time the excuse of working with fewer resources than Liverpool cuts no ice. The Premier League champions controlled large swathes of the game but were careless and unimaginative in the final third, with Robin van Persie enduring a trying afternoon.
For Liverpool, however, it is four wins from four in all competitions and maintaining a 100 per cent start to the campaign in these circumstances could reverberate for some time.
Brendan Rodgers’s team toiled against the leading lights of the Premier League last season but possessed the game’s outstanding, clinical forward in Daniel Sturridge and displayed a defensive resilience that many doubted was within them. With Thiago Ilori, Mamadou Sakho and Victor Moses all present ahead of their proposed moves from Sporting Lisbon, Paris Saint Germain and Chelsea respectively, momentum appears set to continue.
United were disrupted by injury, Liverpool’s relentless industry and their own lack of composure. Wayne Rooney was absent and will be out “for a few weeks” with a head injury suffered in a training ground collision with Phil Jones, according to Moyes, meaning England will be without the striker for the impending World Cup qualifiers against Moldova and Ukraine. The observing Hodgson – who also saw Glen Johnson limp off – at least found solace in the stunning early-season form of Sturridge.
The game opened at a breathless pace and remained at a high intensity with challenges and temperatures to match. Patrice Evra and Ashley Young immediately took the game to Liverpool, and remained a potent outlet for United without receiving enough supply. But it was the home side who dealt the telling early blow with a goal that epitomised their work-rate and intelligence.
Jordan Henderson pressed Young into submission near the United penalty area. The ball broke for Sturridge and though Rio Ferdinand read the striker’s shot to deflect wide, he was not so alert at the resulting corner. Daniel Agger twisted and turned to steal a yard on Ferdinand and headed Steven Gerrard’s corner goalwards. Sturridge, showing supreme awareness, stepped forward off the goalline to back-flick a header between Evra and Tom Cleverley. Anfield erupted and the England international sprinted into an embrace with Rodgers in celebration of his fifth goal in four matches this season.