Match ends, Liverpool 0, Manchester United 1.
Wayne Rooney's late strike settled a scrappy encounter to give Manchester United and manager Louis van Gaal a vital victory at Liverpool.
In a game that was a pale shadow of previous meetings between these two Premier League superpowers, Liverpool had the better chances and United keeper David de Gea kept his side in it with fine saves from Adam Lallana and Emre Can.
Jurgen Klopp's side wasted other opportunities and paid the price 12 minutes from time when Rooney fired United's first shot on target high past Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet after Marouane Fellaini's header came back off the bar.
Van Gaal's position had been under scrutiny after only two wins in United's previous 11 games - but victory at Anfield is the perfect tonic and his team are now in fifth, just two points off the Champions League places.
Rooney still vital for United
Rooney's status as United and England's main man is often questioned - but once again he proved he remains, along with the outstanding De Gea, one of Van Gaal's most crucial players.
The 30-year-old lifelong Evertonian relishes winning at Anfield, and his delight was plain to see after he hammered home his first goal here since January 2005.
It was further proof he is undergoing a rejuvenation after criticism earlier this season, scoring twice in the 3-3 draw at Newcastle United and the winning goals in the FA Cup third-round victory against Sheffield United and the league match with Swansea City.
The question may be asked again soon - but there is still no evidence to suggest the Red Devils are a better side without Rooney than with him.
Klopp's task made clear
Liverpool have shown signs of promise in two big games at Anfield this week - but only earned a point against Arsenal with an injury-time equaliser and were beaten here.
Klopp is still trying to impose his "gegenpressing" style on Liverpool and it has worked better away - in impressive wins at Chelsea, Manchester City, Southampton and Stoke City - than it has at Anfield.
Liverpool were arguably the better team here but once again demonstrated a vulnerability to crosses and ran out of steam badly towards the end. The philosophy will not bear fruit until his defenders can clear a cross.
The struggles Klopp faces are summed up by the fact that, for the second game running, he was reduced to throwing defender Steven Caulker, a loan signing from QPR, on as a late substitute in attack.
The German has much work to do.
The friendly 'derby'?
Tongue in cheek, perhaps - but this was a far cry from the thunderous collisions between Liverpool and Manchester United when Scousers such as Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher faced local products Gary and Phil Neville, as well as Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs.
Anfield, not helped by the lack of quality on offer, was subdued and the aggression that used to be this fixture's hallmark flared only briefly in a couple of early skirmishes involving Liverpool's Lucas and United midfielder Fellaini.
This was every inch a game between sides sitting sixth and ninth in the Premier League before kick-off.
It may have even come as a disappointment to Klopp after the build-up and the history. He called these games "the salt in the soup" - this one needed an awful lot of seasoning.
United's Jesse Lingard, born in Warrington, was as close to local as it got in the starting line-ups - and perhaps that explains the lack of fire and brimstone that used to be a starting point in these confrontations.
Man of the match - David de Gea (Manchester United)
What the managers said
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp: "I didn't see too many chances for Manchester United and we didn't take ours. Of course it is frustrating. We lost a game that we should not have lost.
"The goal was to defend and we didn't do it. That is our responsibility. We have to defend set pieces better.
"We did really well creating the chances, but there were a lot of situations where we could have created more chances and didn't. There were a lot of positive things but we lost in a derby against Manchester United."
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal: "We know Wayne Rooney has played for Everton and now plays for United so he wants to score against Liverpool, it means a lot for him.
"We have made a good start in 2016, to beat Liverpool for the second time in a row is it marvellous, it gives a big boost for the players and the fans so I hope it shall continue with winning.
"That is why we are here, to win our games and at end of the season to be in the first three positions of the league."
Stats of the day
- Rooney (176) has overtaken Arsenal's Thierry Henry (175) as the scorer of the most goals for a single club in Premier League history.
- Rooney has scored in four successive games for United for the first time since March 2012.
- Liverpool have conceded more goals from corners than any other team in the Premier League this season (7).
- United have scored with all four of their shots on target against Liverpool this season in the Premier League.
- Liverpool's failure to find the net ended an eight-game Premier League run of scoring at Anfield. It is the first time under Klopp they have not scored at home.
- Van Gaal has won all four Premier League games against Liverpool.
Liverpool are hoping to avoid another home defeat - and an embarrassing FA Cup exit - when they host Exeter in a third-round replay on Wednesday.
United are safely into the fourth round already, meaning they are not back in action until Saturday. Van Gaal's side welcome 10th-placed Southampton to Old Trafford in the Premier League.
- 4K TouréSubstituted forBentekeat 81'minutes
- 7MilnerSubstituted forCaulkerat 90'minutes
- 20LallanaSubstituted forIbeat 76'minutes
- 44B Smith
- 53Vilaca Teixeira
- 1de Gea
- 18YoungSubstituted forBorthwick-Jacksonat 42'minutes
- 12SmallingBooked at 65mins
- 27FellainiBooked at 75mins
- 35LingardSubstituted forMataat 66'minutes
- 21HerreraSubstituted forDepayat 72'minutes
- Mark Clattenburg
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Liverpool 0, Manchester United 1.
Offside, Liverpool. Mamadou Sakho tries a through ball, but Christian Benteke is caught offside.
Jordon Ibe (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United).
Hand ball by Juan Mata (Manchester United).
Substitution, Liverpool. Steven Caulker replaces James Milner.
Attempt blocked. James Milner (Liverpool) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Christian Benteke.
Attempt missed. Christian Benteke (Liverpool) right footed shot from the centre of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Jordon Ibe with a cross.
Attempt blocked. Jordon Ibe (Liverpool) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by James Milner.
Christian Benteke (Liverpool) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Morgan Schneiderlin (Manchester United).
Attempt missed. Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Morgan Schneiderlin.
Offside, Liverpool. Alberto Moreno tries a through ball, but Roberto Firmino is caught offside.
Corner, Liverpool. Conceded by Memphis Depay.
Emre Can (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Morgan Schneiderlin (Manchester United).
Emre Can (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Anthony Martial (Manchester United).
Substitution, Liverpool. Christian Benteke replaces Kolo Touré.