Giggs snuffs out hopes Dalglish's return would restore old order

Manchester United 1 Liverpool 0

Old Trafford

From the moment Sir Alex Ferguson emerged from the Old Trafford tunnel and started waving his arms about, appealing to the home crowd to raise the pre-match atmosphere, you knew that the Manchester United manager was concerned yesterday might become Liverpool's day.

By doing nothing to disguise the fact that he knew the impact Kenny Dalglish's return would have on Liverpool yesterday, Ferguson inadvertently paid his old adversary the greatest compliment he could. Anyone at Old Trafford could hardly have failed to notice the Dalglish effect; the away fans were in the ground long before kick-off and they sounded the happiest they have in a long time.

As for the team, Dalglish picked a Liverpool side that would have appealed to the supporters. There was no Paul Konchesky in the side, with Fabio Aurelio a more popular choice, and a sprinkling of younger players on the bench. Then, as Dalglish came down the touchline to take his place in the dugout, he looked up at the away support, applauded, smiled and punched the air.

It provoked a response full of joy, affection and, it was impossible to ignore, optimism. From his seat in the dugout Ferguson cannot have failed to notice the mood. It took him the best part of a decade to depose Liverpool from their perch and the prospect of them clambering back up to it one day – one day in his lifetime – must still represent his greatest nightmare.

When Dalglish quit Liverpool in 1991, United were in their 23rd season without a league title and Ferguson, in his fifth year at the club, had finished a disappointing 13th the previous season, 31 points behind Dalglish's champions. In the years that followed he might have seen off Dalglish in his subsequent roles as Blackburn and then Newcastle manager, but as Liverpool manager, Dalglish retired when he was still on top.

So, yes, this day was about Dalglish but what should never be forgotten about Ferguson is that, despite his 11 titles and his great success, his entire professional existence is based on the continued subjugation of his managerial rivals. And Dalglish, 11 years out the game, is still a man who cannot be taken lightly, not now he is back at the club that once oppressed Ferguson and United in the 1980s.

What irony then that United should win a penalty after 32 seconds, exactly the kind of borderline decision that Ferguson once claimed Liverpool were given as a matter of course at home when he uttered that famous quotation in 1988 that clubs "come away from Anfield choking on their vomit and biting their tongues knowing they have been done by the referee".

Times have changed and Dalglish did not go that far, although he did call Howard Webb's decision to penalise Daniel Agger's challenge on Dimitar Berbatov "a joke". On balance it looked like the referee got it right. There was contact between the two and few Premier League strikers require a second invitation to go to ground.

Despite the bleak start, this game was not a disaster for Dalglish – in mitigation, his team had to cope with Steven Gerrard's needless red card. The Liverpool captain's reckless two-footed lunge at Michael Carrick after 32 minutes meant that a comeback was highly unlikely and, in the end, a 1-0 defeat turned out to be quite a respectable result.

Dalglish argued with Gerrard's dismissal too, although goodness knows why. There was not much anyone could do to explain why such an accomplished footballer would have such a self-destructive rush of blood. It was a long, lonely walk for Gerrard from the centre spot to the tunnel at the corner of Old Trafford and it was clearly an effort for him to keep a lid on his emotions.

The Liverpool captain had not liked his England team-mate Rio Ferdinand's intervention in the aftermath of the tackle and words were exchanged. Liverpool's strongest case for the defence was that Rafael da Silva had gone in two-footed on Raul Meireles seconds earlier but it was nowhere near as bad as Gerrard's challenge. He had to go.

It will concern Dalglish that his side's best player was Pepe Reina, who almost got to Ryan Giggs' penalty and made four brilliant saves in the space of a few seconds on 69 minutes as the ball fizzed around the Liverpool penalty area.

What of Fernando Torres? It was not the kind of inspirational contribution that Liverpool and Dalglish require from him but it was not as bad as some of those could-not-care-less performances that distinguished his worst efforts this season. He was substituted before the end for David Ngog and trotted dutifully to the bench.

For any Liverpool player, even Gerrard, Dalglish is a difficult man to let down and the full consequences of the captain's red card will be felt in his suspension over the next three games – especially against Everton next Sunday.

This was another of those United performances in which their form could hardly be described as irresistible but they were damned hard to break down. Ferdinand was excellent again and he was alongside Jonny Evans, back for the first time since that dreadful performance in November against West Ham in the Carling Cup, who hit the post with a header at the end of the first half.

Giggs was the pick of the team but Rafael, aggressive and sharp throughout, was not too far behind. United should have been a long way out of sight before the end of the game, especially as Liverpool's 10 men tired, but there remains something missing from Ferguson' s team. Still, top of the Premier League, in the Champions League knockout stages and away at League One Southampton in the FA Cup fourth round – it is not a bad position.

There was an insight into Dalglish's thinking when he gave Ryan Babel a run-out on the hour and the Dutchman responded with a lively, committed effort. It looks as if the Scot is prepared to give everyone a chance. As for going to war with Ferguson, United and the prevailing current powers in English football – that can wait. Although if Dalglish has plans to stick around beyond May, that battle will have to be fought one day.

Manchester United (4-3-3): Kuszczak; R da Silva, Ferdinand, J Evans (Smalling, 84), Evra; Fletcher (Anderson, 63), Carrick, Giggs; Nani, Berbatov, Hernandez (Owen, 75). Substitutes not used: indegaard (gk), F Da Silva, Obertan, Gibson

Liverpool (4-2-3-1): Reina; Kelly, Agger, Skrtel, Aurelio; Lucas, Meireles (Shelvey, 60); Kuyt, Gerrard, Rodriguez (Babel, 60); Torres (Ngog, 77). Substitutes not used: Gulasci (gk),Kyrgiakos, Wilson, Poulsen

Possession Manchester United 58% Liverpool 22%

Shots on target Manchester United 10 Liverpool 5

Match rating 6/10 Man of the match Giggs

Referee H Webb (South Yorkshire)

Booked: Man United Fletcher, Anderson. Sent off: Liverpool Gerrard (32) Attendance 74,727

Liverpool lift-off

Five areas that Dalglish must seek to improve:



* Needs to get Fernando Torres back on form and scoring goals. The Spaniard's poor performances were central to Roy Hodgson's demise

* Get Jamie Carragher fit again. The defender is still very important to the side.

* Get Daniel Agger back on side. He fell out with Hodgson but Agger and Carragher are Liverpool's best central defensive duo.

* Sort out the left-back. If Paul Konchesky is not going to be picked again after his mother's Facebook rant,a replacement must be sought this month.

* More creativity required. On form, the likes of Ryan Babel and Joe Cole could offer Liverpool a great deal. Can Dalglish get the best out of them?

News
The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
news
News
peopleFox presenter gives her less than favourable view of women in politics
Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
musicReview: 1989's songs attempt to encapsulate dramatic emotional change in a few striking lines
News
Mario Balotelli has been accused of 'threateningly' telling a woman to stop photographing his Ferrari
peoplePolice investigate claim Balotelli acted 'threateningly' towards a woman photographing his Ferrari
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Voices
Don’t try this at home: DIY has now fallen out of favour
voicesNick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of it
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
Sport
Phil Jones (left) attempts to stop the progress of West Bromwich Albion’s James Morrison on Monday
I'm not worried about United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Arts and Entertainment
Saw point: Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in ‘Serena’
filmReview: Serena is a strangely dour and downbeat affair
Life and Style
The Zinger Double Down King, which is a bun-less burger released in Korea
food + drinkKFC unveils breadless meat beast
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker