Victims of the Hillsborough disaster were remembered in poignant scenes with both clubs setting aside their rivalry to observe the pre-match ceremonies with impeccable decorum. There also no repeat of the ugly scenes from Old Trafford when Luis Suarez refused to shake Patrice Evra’s hand as the pair carried out the pre-match ritual with zero fuss.
When the action did get underway Liverpool dominated but lacked the finishing touch that would have brought them a well earned lead, Steven Gerrard going closest with a shot that sailed narrowly wide. United were struggling to deal with the home sides fluent passing and movement but were offered a route back into the game after Jonjo Shelvey was shown a straight red card for a reckless lunge on Jonny Evans much to the annoyance of Brendan Rodgers.
The Reds boss threw Suso on at the break in place of Fabio Borini and the youngster made an immediate impact as his cross fell to Glen Johnson, who did brilliantly to tee up Gerrard to volley past Anders Lindegard at the Kop End. That kicked Sir Alex Ferguson’s men into gear and they were level in the 51st minute as Rafael curled a brilliant effort past Pepe Reina after Shinji Kagawa chested Antonio Valencia’s cross from the right into his path.
Lindegard twice came to his sides rescue as Liverpool pressed forward, saving from Luis Suarez and Suso, before Van Persie snatched victory from the penalty spot after Johnson brought down Valencia in the area after a collision between him Daniel Agger in the centre conceded possession, the latter worryingly leaving the field on a stretcher.