Liverpool v Man United reaction

The England international, who had played just an hour’s football

in three substitute appearances this season after a groin operation

in March, made his first start in six months at Anfield. It was

almost inevitable that the Merseysiders’ talismanic midfielder

would be the one to score, threading a free-kick through United’s

wall to open the scoring midway through the second half. However,

substitute Javier Hernandez popped up with a close-range header

nine minutes from time to put a dampener on Gerrard’s day, even

though he was named man of the match. “The fact we have Steven

Gerrard playing is a real boost to us,” Dalglish said. “It is

fantastic for him he has crowned his first start for a while by

scoring. “He has made a fantastic contribution to this football

club and he will continue to do that. “To see him back was

brilliant for us, but more importantly really encouraging for him.

He still has a bit to go, but it was fantastic to see him starting

a game and he deserves that reward of a goal.” Dalglish’s

assessment of the first half as “sterile” was just about right,

with the match only getting into gear after the break. Dirk Kuyt

had a penalty shout turned down when his header hit Jonny Evans on

the arm, while goalkeeper David de Gea pulled off two brilliant

saves to deny the Dutchman and substitute Jordan Henderson. “I

think it was pretty even, pretty sterile at the beginning,”

Dalglish added. “The second half they started a bit better than us

but not for too long because we got on top after that. “We took the

lead and then they equalised from a corner before the goalkeeper

made two fantastic saves. “We would like to have had three points,

but the way we came back and went for three points after they

equalised was admirable.” The draw ended a run of three successive

defeats for United at Anfield and Dalglish said it was a mark of

how much they had progressed that they were not satisfied with a

point. “It is a real indication when you go in the dressing room

afterwards and they are disappointed to draw 1-1, that tells you

how far they are come,” said the Reds boss, who was not surprised

to see Wayne Rooney and Hernandez start on the bench. “After every

international break Fergie has made changes to his team and he has

an important away game in the Champions League coming up so it is

only right he is going to have to move his squad about. “But I

think it was a compliment as well.” The match marked the first

anniversary of the takeover by Fenway Sports Group, effectively

rescuing the club from the threat of administration and turning it

back onto a more stable course. Dalglish noted the strides which

had been made, but insisted it was only the beginning. “I don’t

know where we’re going, I just think everyone connected with the

club is happy with where we have reached so far,” he added. “We

will continue to do what we possibly can to take it further.”

Ferguson confirmed he left Rooney out of his starting line-up as a

direct result of the three-match ban that threatens to rule him out

of Euro 2012. Ferguson told MUTV on Friday that he expected the

punishment UEFA handed down on Thursday evening. And ultimately,

that was enough to trigger the decision to leave Rooney on the

bench on Saturday, although he was introduced in the second half as

United fought back to claim a point. “Wayne was devastated at the

suspension,” said Ferguson. “He could miss the European

Championships because there is no guarantee England are going to

qualify (from their group). That is the nuts and bolts of it.

“England have found it very difficult to progress in major

championships and for Wayne to get three matches, he could miss the

whole thing.” In his absence, Danny Welbeck led the United attack,

although he was forced to feed off scraps as the visitors failed to

test Pepe Reina in the first half. Aside from one Phil Jones header

into the side netting, the Old Trafford outfit played within

themselves, concentrating on the defensive side of their game

against opponents they have lost to three times in succession on

their visits to Merseyside. It was not until Steven Gerrard curled

Liverpool in front that United opened up. First Ferguson introduced

Rooney and Nani, then Javier Hernandez, who headed home Nani’s

corner 15 minutes from the end. “Hernandez did it again,” enthused

Ferguson. “When you see the goal he was strangled by Martin Skrtel

but he managed to free himself. “His goals-per-game ratio is

fantastic. You always think he can score. That is the great thing

about him.” Rio Ferdinand was another to excel for the visitors,

even if his foul on Charlie Adam gave away the free-kick from which

Gerrard scored. However, in a strange game which only came to life

in that final quarter, United were indebted to David de Gea, who

produced a couple of brilliant saves near the end to deny Dirk Kuyt

and Jordan Henderson and crown his best all-round display in a

United shirt. “De Gea is a fantastic goalkeeper,” said Ferguson.

“He is so confident and composed for a 20-year-old.”