Manchester United 2-1 Liverpool

By Phil McNultyChief football writer at Old Trafford
Wayne Rooney
Rooney's brace came on his 500th career appearance

Luis Suarez's overshadowed a crucial victory for Manchester United over Liverpool at Old Trafford.

Suarez and Evra were in opposition for the first time since the Premier League which led to the Uruguayan serving an for racially abusing the United defender.

And the tone for an ill-tempered - but at times absorbing - encounter was set when Suarez ignored Evra's extended hand in the pre-match formalities.

Evra attempted to grab Suarez's arm as he walked past, with Rio Ferdinand then refusing to shake hands with the Liverpool striker as the situation threatened to descend into complete farce.

The incident provided an undercurrent throughout a game which was won by two goals from Wayne Rooney inside the first four minutes of the second half.

Liverpool should sell Suarez - Ferguson

Suarez was also a central figure in angry scenes as the teams went down the tunnel at the interval after he had ended the half by kicking the ball into the crowd.

He almost provided more headlines when he pulled a goal back late on that threatened to deprive United of victory, before more acrimony flared at the final whistle.

Evra almost lapped Old Trafford in elation before continuing his celebrations in close proximity to Suarez in front of the Stretford End, provoking an angry response from Liverpool's players and concluding an afternoon that was not the most savoury advert for the Premier League.

When a football match did break out, it was Rooney's contribution that proved decisive and ensured United moved back to the top of the table ahead of Manchester City,

Any hopes of relative calm before kick-off disappeared in the pre-match non-handshake - but Liverpool at least started with a measure of composure and Glen Johnson was just off target with a low, curling effort after four minutes.

United's response came with a moment that rolled back the years at Old Trafford, Paul Scholes linking with Giggs before moving on to the end of his perfect cross, only to head straight at Pepe Reina.

Suarez was then involved in another flashpoint just before half-time when, furious after he felt he had been fouled by Ferdinand, he rounded on the officials before kicking the ball towards the crowd as the half-time whistle sounded.

The fall-out resulted in angry exchanges between the players as they disappeared down the tunnel at half-time.

If anyone was galvanised by the hostility it was United - and Rooney was the match-winner as he struck twice in the opening four minutes after the restart.

Giggs's corner touched off Jordan Henderson into the path of Rooney, who volleyed powerfully past Reina - and he was on hand to turn home Antonio Valencia's pass after Jay Spearing's costly concession of possession.

Dalglish refuses to be drawn on row

Rooney should have had his hat-trick thanks to a clever step over from Scholes but he was caught on his heels and scuffed a tame finish wide.

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish had watched the momentum swing violently away from his side, instigating a double change on the hour when Spearing and the anonymous Stewart Downing were replaced by Andy Carroll and Craig Bellamy.

Suarez was cutting an increasingly frustrated figure, but gave Liverpool fresh hope when he won a free-kick which earned Michael Carrick a booking. Charlie Adam's delivery bounced off Ferdinand, allowing the lurking Suarez to poke home from close range.

There was to be no late reprieve for Liverpool, but still time for another show of the ill-feeling between the players that demonstrated again the tension that currently exists between the two clubs.

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson:

"I thought it was a great performance; I'm really pleased with the players. With Wayne scoring, and then scoring immediately after, it put us in a great position.

"[My] only thought was, instead of going for the killer goal, they tended to just keep possession. That's a dangerous game to play - and of course with Liverpool scoring there was nervy moments towards the end.

"[Antonio] Valencia has been unbelievable and Jonny [Evans] has fantastic potential. He's had the consistency of [playing] games and I think that helps with young players."

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish:

"I don't think there was much [between the two teams]. It was pretty even and you expect the home side to have more possession.

"There wasn't much in the game and those five minutes in the second half gave us a mountain to climb.

"We left ourselves too much to do and that's why they walked away with a victory."

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