London - Javier Hernandez preserved Manchester
United's unbeaten start to the season with an 81st-minute equaliser as
Liverpool were held 1-1 at Anfield on Saturday.
Steven Gerrard had
put Kenny Dalglish's side within sight of victory after marking his
first start for seven months by firing his side ahead.
not started since undergoing groin surgery after Liverpool overcame
United 3-1 in the corresponding fixture last season.
fairytale return was ruined when substitute Hernandez rescued a point
nine minutes from time for United, who surpringly started without
leading scorer Wayne Rooney.
United did not start with Rooney, who
came on as a late substitute, because Sir Alex Ferguson said he was
devastated by his England Euro 2012 suspension.
This was the first league meeting between the two sides since United moved to a record 19 titles ahead of Liverpool's 18.
manager Ferguson had labelled the fixture as the biggest in world club
football yet there was little to excite the crowd during a fast and
frantic start in which both sides struggled to retain possession.
made one change from the side that had overcome neighbours Everton
before the international break, with Andy Carroll, who scored in the 2-0
win at Goodison Park, making way for Gerrard.
Yet even the return
of the captain struggled to raise the hosts, who were unfortunate to
escape falling behind in the 16th minute when Phil Jones headed
wastefully wide from Patrice Evra's fine cross.
Jones was playing
in midfield in a United line-up which showed no fewer than six changes
from the side that overcame Norwich 2-0 in their last game on October 1.
the absence of Rooney from the side was the biggest surprise, Ferguson
also opted to start with Mexican striker Hernandez and Portuguese winger
Nani on the bench.
Rooney, Hernandez and Nani had scored 14 of
United's 24 league goals ahead of this game so it was little surprise
that the visitors failed to find the net before half-time.
best chance of the half fell to Luis Suarez, the Liverpool striker
denied by David de Gea in the 34th minute after Charlie Adam's shot had
cannoned off United defender Jonny Evans into the Uruguay
American basketball player LeBron James, who
became a minority stakeholder in Liverpool in April, was in the crowd
to watch the club for the first time.
And the Miami Heat forward
was left frustrated as home appeals for a penalty were waved away by
referee Andre Marriner after a 52nd-minute header by Dirk Kuyt, who
scored a hat-trick in the corresponding fixture last season, appeared to
strike Evans on the arm.
The longer the game remained goalless the louder the chants from United's fans calling for Rooney's introduction became.
Then came the goal that rocked Anfield to its foundations.
had no hesitation awarding a free-kick after Adam crashed to the floor
following a challenge just outside the penalty area by Ferdinand, who
had been booked in the first half.
It was as though Gerrard had
never been away as the England international found the net with a
trademark free-kick after Ryan Giggs inexplicably peeled away from the
But Hernandez rescued a point when he nodded home from close range.