Dimitar Berbatov scored a quality hat-trick to propel Manchester United to a fully-deserved 3-2 win over Liverpool in the Barclays Premier League.
The Bulgarian, who was restored to the United line-up after he was given a rest against Rangers, scored a fine treble of goals, which ultimately overcame two set piece goals from Steven Gerrard.
Like they have done twice already this season, United let their opponents back into the match, but, thankfully, this time, and against their most-hated of rivals, they kept their nerve and were able to get the decisive goal to get all three points.
Manchester United v Liverpool Report
United started the match out well by pinning Liverpool deep in their own half winning countless corners, but they could not find the break through and the visitors then began to find their feet.
United had a shout for a penalty after Jamie Carragher yanked Nemanja Vidic’s shirt, but Howard Webb, who was in a good position, waved away the appeals.
The first real chance came at the quarter of an hour mark. Nani burst into the area, but the Liverpool defenders did well to close him down, so he cut it back for Wayne Rooney, and his blocked shot fell to the feet of Nani. Instead of shooting, though, Nani looked to have tried picking out Berbatov at the far post and the ball went out of play and the opportunity came to nothing.
Liverpool’s first goal attempt came in the 25th minute. Following a short corner, Glen Johnson cut inside on his weaker left foot and drilled a shot well wide of Edwin van der Sar’s far post.
After clearly dominating possession, United got their noses in front. From a Ryan Giggs’ corner, Berbatov out-muscled Fernando Torres and guided his header inside Pepe Reina’s right-hand post to give United the one-nil lead.
United smelled blood and had another shout for a penalty. Nani’s cross struck the arm of Maxi Rodriguez, but Webb shook his head and was completely disinterested in claims for a free-kick.
Rooney had a chance to double United’s lead, but his well-hit shot went just wide of Reina’s goal.
Liverpool started the second-half with intent of searching for an equalizer, but it was United who tested the opposing goalkeeper first. From long-range, Darren Fletcher decided to have a go, and Reina could not hold the shot, but he quickly gathered it with Berbatov lurking.
United found some space down the right-hand side, and John O’Shea picked out Nani, and the winger’s shot ricocheted off the inside of Reina’s near post.
The first yellow cad of the match went to Rooney. The center forward needlessly gave the ball away to Torres, and he chopped him down from behind.
United were two goals to the good after a bit of genius from Berbatov. Nani lofted the ball into the Liverpool box, and Berbatov collected the ball, and even though he was surrounded by defenders, with some improvisation he cleverly hit a bicycle kick in off the underside of Reina’s crossbar.
The linesman, who denied all of the appeals for infractions for United in the first-half, waved his flag to award Liverpool a penalty as Jonny Evans carelessly wiped out the feet of Torres.
Gerrard stepped up to take the spot kick and he sent Edwin van der Sar the wrong way to pull a goal back to give some hope to hapless Liverpool.
The goal seemed to inspire United, though, and after a good spell of possession and good play from Nani, the ball eventually found its way to Rooney, but from a good position his header did not trouble Reina.
Liverpool started to find gaps in the United defense, and John O’Shea can count his lucky stars that he was not watching the last 20 minutes of the match from the locker room after he tugged down Torres when the Spaniard was clean through.
From the ensuing free-kick, Gerrard found a hole the United wall, and curled his shot into the net to unjustifiably pull Liverpool level.
After the equalizer, Liverpool began to a foothold in the match. Two of their summer signings could have to put them in front, but to the delight of the home supporters the ball skidded off Raul Meireles’ head and out for a goal kick.
Ferguson decided to give Federico Macheda his first action of the season, bringing on the young Italian for Giggs. The change sent Rooney out the left flank and paired Berbatov and Macheda.
The move paid off six minutes from time, as Berbatov rose highest to head home O’Shea’s cross. The placement of the header was sublime and capped off a great performance.
Sir Alex brought on Darron Gibson and Anderson – his first match since recovering from his knee injury – for Berbatov and Nani.
United finally did an admirable job of seeing out the game, and not conceding any goals in stoppage time.
Manchester United can consider themselves quite fortunate to end up winners against Liverpool after they needlessly let them back in the match, but hopefully this result will now catapult them in the right direction.
Dimitar Berbatov showed Sir Alex the creativity that was missing against Rangers in their midweek UEFA Champions League’s match as he scored his first hat-trick for the club.
E. van der Sar – 6; J. O’Shea – 6, J. Evans – 5, N. Vidic – 7, P. Evra – 6; Nani – 7 (D. Gibson – X), P. Scholes – 7, D. Fletcher – 7, R. Giggs – 6 (F. Macheda – 6); W. Rooney – 6, D. Berbatov – 9 (Anderson – X)
D. Berbatov (42′), (59′) (84′)
Shots (On Target): 19 (5)
Fouls Conceded: 15
Fouls Suffered: 11
Bookings: W. Rooney, J. Evans, P. Scholes, J. O’Shea