Captain Wayne Rooney landed a second-half sucker punch to hand Manchester United a dramatic 1-0 Premier League triumph over Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday.
The 30-year-old striker broke Liverpool hearts with a 78th-minute volley off a rebound after Marouane Fellaini’s goal-bound header struck the crossbar. Rooney also broke the Premier League record for most goals scored for a single club of 176 as he surpassed Thierry Henry’s mark of 175 for Arsenal.
The result sees Louis van Gaal’s team complete the Premier League season double over Jurgen Klopp’s outfit after United dispatched their arch rivals 3-1 in September last year at Old Trafford.
The victory would also have brought great relief to under-fire United manager Van Gaal, as a defeat may have seen him relieved from his duties after a poor recent run of form this season which has seen United knocked out of the Champions League and drop from the top of the Premier League standings to sixth before Sunday’s outcome.
Liverpool dominated throughout the 90 minutes at Anfield on Sunday, but their defence was found wanting from a set-piece as a short corner to Juan Mata saw the Spaniard deliver an inch-perfect cross to Fellaini, whose powerful header beat Simon Mignolet in the Liverpool goal.
But the ball hit the crossbar and fell in Rooney’s path, and the England skipper fired a volley that burst through Mignolet’s hands into the top corner.
Klopp’s Liverpool, though, can feel justifiably aggrieved as they had a number of chances to put the result beyond doubt. Brazilian midfielder Roberto Firmino troubled the United defence with his pace and trickery, while German international Emre Can impressed with his cut-and-thrust in the centre of the park.
But most of the Reds’ shots went either wide or over the top as they battled to find the target. And when they did, they were unable to penetrate the United wall – David de Gea.
The Spanish goalkeeper pulled off a number of outstanding saves, none more so when he denied Liverpool twice – a swerving long-range pile-driver by Emre Can and then Firmino’s follow-up – in a double save in the 67th minute.
United lacked precision and creativity in their attack, with Rooney and Anthony Martial unable to strike up an incisive partnership. There was little penetration from the midfield as well, with Fellaini playing behind Rooney and being easily closed down by the Liverpool central defence of Kolo Toure and Mamadou Sakho.
In contrast, Klopp’s energetic team were full of running, with captain Jordan Henderson and Emre Can finding space for veteran James Milner on the right and the lively Firmino.
But they paid dearly for all those misses as Rooney had the last laugh to take United up to fifth on the log on 37 points as they moved above West Ham. They are still seven adrift of surprise log-leaders Leicester City on 44. Liverpool remain ninth on 31.