On this day in 2002: Danny Murphy breaks United hearts again

It’s 12 years to the day since the Reds picked up a priceless three points in front of a stunned Old Trafford. Henry Jackson looks back at a memorable tonight for anyone associated with Liverpool Football Club.

Manchester United 0-1 Liverpool

Tuesday 22nd January 2002

Sir Alex Ferguson’s side had been in formidable form going into the game, and were looking for a ninth straight Premier League victory. Phil Thompsons’s Liverpool- the former Reds captain was still in temporary charge because of manager Gerard Houllier’s poor health- had won just one of their last nine league matches.

The odds were, therefore, heavily stacked against the Reds.

The game started at a frantic pace, with Steven Gerrard, deservedly named Man of the Match on the night, booked for taking down Ryan Giggs in the first minute. United enjoyed the majority of the possession in the opening 45 minutes, but Thompson’s typically resolute side allowed only the odd half-chance for the hosts.

As the game wore on, however, it was Liverpool who started to boss proceedings. The midfield trio of Gerrard, Danny Murphy and Dietmar Hamann started to get the better of Roy Keane, Paul Scholes and Juan Sebastian Veron in the battle for midfield superiority.

With the game into its latter stages, Jerzy Dudek made a good save from Veron’s effort, before substitute Nicolas Anelka almost made an immediate impact. The Frenchman’s shot was kept out well by Fabien Barthez.

Jon Arne Riise, playing on the left side of midfield for this game, saw his half-volley from the resulting corner kept out by the French World Cup-winning ‘keeper, as Liverpool continued to press.

With the game drifting towards a draw, the defining moment of the game came in the 85th minute. Gerrard, who at 21 was beginning to grow into a real talisman for Liverpool, produced a sublime pass in behind the United defence, and the on-rushing Murphy lofted a perfectly-weighted, looping finish over Barthez.

The away fans, players and staff went wild with joy, just as they had done 13 months previously when Murphy again scored the only goal of the game at Old Trafford.  There was still time for Dudek to make a terrific save from Giggs’ header, but Liverpool held on for a huge win.

The victory was the start of a fantastic run of form for the Reds, who only lost one league game in the remainder of the season, away to Tottenham in April 2002. They went on to finish second in the table, ahead of United but behind champions Arsenal.

Murphy would score another winner at Old Trafford two years later, converting a penalty in a 1-0 win for Houllier’s team.

Goals: Murphy 85

Attendance: 67,599

Man of the Match: Steven Gerrard

Liverpool: Dudek, Wright, Henchoz, Hyypia, Carragher, Murphy (Berger 88), Hamann, Gerrard, Riise, Heskey, Owen (Anelka 77)

Man Utd: Barthez, G. Neville, Blanc, Silvestre, P. Neville, Beckham (Solskjaer 87), Keane, Scholes, Veron, Giggs, Van Nistelrooy

Follow Henry on twitter: @OnFootballTweet

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