Earlier Rafael da Silva had equalised Steven Gerrard’s opener. However, the decisive spot-kick and first half dismissal of Jonjo Shelvey were just two of the major decisions United appeared to reap the benefit from.
Jonny Evans, with the studs of both boots showing, was equally as reckless in his quest to win the ball but escaped sanction.
Luis Suarez appeared to be upended as he sought to edge past the same player inside the area.
Observances around the verdict of the Hillsborough Independent Panel’s report were carried out prior to kick-off. Bobby Charlton handed a bunch of 96 roses to Ian Rush. Team captains Gerrard and, in Nemanja Vidic’s absence, Ryan Giggs released an equal number of red balloons into the Liverpool sky.
A mosaic covering three quarters of the ground and maintained for the opening minute of play recognised that now the truth about Hillsborough had been recognised justice has to follow.
Suarez and Patrice Evra exchanged a handshake. Meaning that only the game itself should have been the focus of attention.
Brendan Rodgers replaced the entire team from that which beat Young Boys in the Europa League, but unchanged from the side selected against Sunderland a week earlier.
With Sinji Kagawa’s help Giggs gained a shooting chance in a period of early Liverpool domination.
As possession and its effective use grew Anders Lindegaard was called into action. Rafael was on hand twice to snuff out danger when his keeper appeared stretched.
Michael Carrick also had to protect the stalemate and the Danish stopper looked edgy when Raheem Sterling found Suarez on the right – a shot which may have been a cross was only parried. Evans tidied up.
The Reds’ second corner, won by Sterling, produced a narrow miss when Shelvey aimed the ball low into the area for Gerrard to clip towards goal. The side-netting rippled, seemingly with the help of a defender’s shin.
For Liverpool the final ball was proving an issue – though heavy touch from Fabio Borini saw the Italian’s chances of getting round the back of the United defence collapse after a Suarez pass bought him both the space and position.
However, clean through a heavy boot took him away from goal and gave the backline crucial time to react. There were far too many white shirts, and far too few red ones, to make his cross an effective one.
When Agger hit the turf under close attention from Evans as in attempting to reach a Gerrard cross penalty appeals were rejected.
Shelvey was given his marching orders six minutes before the break. Following a tussle with Giggs he chased a loose ball which Evans also sought to win – a classic 50/50. But with each player stretching a clash was inevitable rather than avoidable. Each went over the ball. Evans two-footed.
The referee composed his thoughts over the seconds he took to ensure Shelvey was clear of a potential ruck but decoded the Liverpool man had to go.
Despite a numerical disadvantage Liverpool continued to press and came close in the time which remained before the interval.
Lindegaard pushed a Suarez free-kick away at full stretch. Borini gained room on the left after linking with Joe Allen but his cut-back lacked an attacker taking the chance of a break, allowing Evra to stab the ball out for another corner.
Both managers made changes and reactions to the red card at half-time.
Brendan Rodgers brought Suso on and saw the Spaniard make light work of Paul Scholes down the left flank. His resulting cross may have been headed away by Rio Ferdinand but Glen Johnson reached the ball and despite some loose control Gerrard profited.
The skipper used his chest to control before hitting a shot low into the bottom corner.
Scholes may have been found a little cold soon after his introduction but he gave the visiting midfield balance and an outlet which had been missing. That helped them establish a foothold and not long after and just five minutes after falling behind United were level.
Kagawa diverted an Antonio Valencia cross down with his midriff. The Brazilian full-back took the ball down and then a touch to his left. His nominally weaker foot being used to curl the ball beyond Reina’s best efforts.
Chances kept coming as Liverpool maintained their creative edge in the contest.
Gerrard forced a save and though Lindegaard may not have been too concerned as the ball came at him, he had to be somewhat more agile in denying Suarez soon after.
The Uruguayan burst away from the touchline and in a central position from where he aimed a low curling effort at the posts. A sprawling one-handed save diverted the ball away safely and Lindegaard collected before a Liverpool player could make up the ground.
Suso then tested the keeper with a high shot which needed a quick reaction and an equally strong fist.
On the balance of play it seemed that United were the side missing a player but when Valencia latched onto a loose pass from Suso he steamed past Agger and Johnson then reached the area where he attempted to beat Martin Skrtel.
Johnson came back to atone but his tackle settled the contest. Contact seemed minimal but a clip to the heel had Mark Halsey pointing to the spot.
After a delay due to Agger receiving treatment van Persie took the kick. Reina guessed right and got his hands to it the ball but his gloves could only help the ball in.
Johnson almost helped his side regain parity. The left-back found Martin Kelly’s run inside the area with a centre which dinked invitingly for the defender. Unfortunately his header flashed wide
Liverpool Reina; Kelly, Skrtel, Agger (Carragher), Johnson; Allen, Gerrard, Shelvey; Borini (Suso), Suarez, Sterling (Henderson) Unused Substitutes: Jones, Enrique, Sahin, Assaidi
Manchester United: Lindegaard; Rafael (Wellbeck), Evans, Ferdinand, Evra; Carrick, Giggs; Valencia, Kagawa (Hernandez), Nani (Scholes), Van Persie Unused Substitutes: De Gea, Anderson, Cleverley, ButtnerMatch Stats
Liverpool 53% Manchester United 47%Shots on target
Liverpool 8 Manchster United 4
Shots off target
Liverpool 5 Manchester United 4Corners
Liverpool 7 Manchester United 3