Man Utd 3-2 Liverpool
Dimitar Berbatov scored a hat-trick as Manchester United enjoyed a thrilling 3-2 victory over old rivals Liverpool at Old Trafford.
United appeared in danger of throwing away a winning position for the third time this season when Steven Gerrard's brace had cancelled out Berbatov's double either side of half-time.
However, with six minutes to go, the Bulgarian striker became the first United player to net a hat-trick against Liverpool in 64 years as he headed home John O'Shea's cross.
A first half shy on chances was livened up three minutes before the break when Berbatov easily held off his marker Fernando Torres to head Ryan Giggs' corner inside the post.
Berbatov's second just before the hour mark was a majestic overhead kick and it appeared as though it would then be plain sailing for the Red Devils.
But Jonny Evans' mis-timed challenge on Torres allowed Gerrard to score from the penalty spot on 64 minutes and six minutes later the visiting captain equalised for Liverpool by curling home a free-kick from the edge of the area.
United, though, found one last hurrah as O'Shea drifted a cross to the far post on 84 minutes and Berbatov rose well to beat Jamie Carragher in the air and guide his header inside the upright.
The atmosphere was crackling at kick-off, although the early action failed to match it.
United did create one excellent opportunity, which Nani wasted when he fired wide after Wayne Rooney's shot had bounced kindly for him after striking Gerrard.
But the game was low on incident until Berbatov broke the deadlock by nodding home Giggs' corner at the near post after easily holding off Torres.
Liverpool striker Torres' performance against Birmingham last week came in for criticism and the Spaniard was again struggling to get into the match.
New United captain Nemanja Vidic, who has suffered more than most at the feet of a man who remains one of the world's best strikers, tidied up one opportunity that had come Torres' way via a fortunate bounce off World Cup final referee Howard Webb.
Torres also trundled a disappointing shot way off target after managing to get a quarter of a yard in front of Vidic as the pair turned on the edge of the area.
If defensive questions needed to be asked about United's opener, there was nothing more to do than simply admire Berbatov's brilliance when he doubled his side's lead just before the hour.
It was almost impossible to believe it took just two touches to get Nani's right-wing cross into the net. But it was precisely that.
The first to control with his knee. The second to dispatch an overhead kick which left Pepe Reina rooted to the spot as it bounced in off the crossbar.
In any normal season, the contest would have been over. However, there is a fallibility about United just now that clearly refuses to rectify itself no matter how harsh Sir Alex Ferguson's words.
The rashness with which Evans lunged in on Torres as the striker checked back inside the box gave lie to the theory United can operate effectively without Rio Ferdinand, overlooked for the captaincy and missing with a virus.
On the second occasion, O'Shea could count himself mightily relieved Webb did not reach for the red card once he decided the Irishman had dragged Torres to the ground just outside the box.
With both situations though, Gerrard found the corner of United's goal with precision, racing gleefully to the ecstatic visiting fans the second time around to hail a position he could not have expected his team would be in 10 minutes previously.
It looked like United had blown it. Berbatov had other ideas and rose to meet O'Shea cross to give his side victory and Liverpool were unable to offer a telling response.
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