The opening exchanges between these fierce rivals was frantic and full of energy from both sides even though neither could fashion a clear goal-scoring opportunity early on.
That all changed after 14 minutes when Herrera spotted Juan Mata’s run with an excellent through ball and the former Chelsea playmaker took one touch to steady himself before drilling his shot across Simon Mignolet into the bottom left corner.
From then on United took control of the game and continued to frustrate Brendan Rodgers’ side with their fluid style of play. Liverpool almost equalised in the 35th minute when Jordan Henderson’s cross-field ball found Daniel Sturridge who fed the ball to Adam Lallana but his effort bobbled narrowly wide, that was as good as it got for Liverpool in the opening period.
Liverpool’s hopes of pulling themselves back into the game was dealt a huge blow 40 seconds into the second half when captain Steven Gerrard was dismissed for a moment of madness when he stamped on Ander Herrera.
If the enduring image of last season was the Liverpool captain’s slip against Chelsea, a salvage act will be required to ensure his stamp on Herrera doesn’t prove equally as significant in Liverpool’s chase for that Champions League place.
Liverpool’s response to the sending off was purposeful and Philippe Coutinho came close with a long-range effort that flew just over the crossbar. Liverpool were dealt a further blow though after 59 minutes when Mata finished a smart move from Angel Di Maria with a spectacular acrobatic volley.
Daniel Sturridge halved the lead after 69 minutes to give Liverpool hope of an unlikely comeback when he powered Philippe Coutinho’s pass beyond David De Gea’s near post.
Both sides enjoyed spells of possession as the game twisted and turned, with tempers flaring all over the pitch.
Wayne Rooney was given the chance to kill the game off in stoppage time after Emre Can clumsily knocked over Blind in the penalty area but Mignolet guessed which way Rooney would go and saved his tame effort.
It was clear to see that Gerrard’s dismissal changed the game and with him now missing the next three games could his moment of madness have ended Liverpool’s chances of a Champions League place?