Marcus Rashford’s first-half double inspired Manchester United to a crucial 2-1 victory over rivals Liverpool at Old Trafford on Saturday.
The England forward’s thunderous drive fired United into the lead on 14 minutes – his first Premier League goal since December 10 – and he doubled his tally with a deflected second 10 minutes later.
Eric Bailly’s 66th-minute own goal handed an improved Liverpool a route back into the game but United withstood a late onslaught to secure their first victory over their rivals since January 2016.
The victory sees Jose Mourinho’s men extend their unbeaten league run against Liverpool to eight games and opens up a five-point lead over Jurgen Klopp’s side in the race for second.
There was a subdued start to the 200th meeting between England’s two most-decorated clubs, but Rashford, making his first league start since Boxing Day, ignited the contest.
Romelu Lukaku bullied Dejan Lovren to flick a David de Gea punt into the path of Rashford, who cut inside Trent Alexander-Arnold before ruthlessly rifling the ball into the far corner.
Virgil van Dijk should have drawn Liverpool level on 23 minutes but he headed James Milner’s corner wide from five yards and Rashford made him pay for the miss a minute later.
After Lukaku got the better of Lovren in the air again, Juan Mata’s attempted shot was blocked into Rashford’s path and his low effort took a nick off Alexander-Arnold on its way past Karius.
United so nearly had a third on 39 minutes but Mata’s overhead kick flashed wide, moments before Ashley Young brilliantly denied Liverpool a lifeline, preventing Andrew Robertson’s cross from setting up Mohamed Salah for a tap-in.
There was a stark improvement from Liverpool after the break. Van Dijk steered a header onto the roof of the United goal within four minutes of the restart before a combination of Chris Smalling and Young denied Salah from converting Roberto Firmino’s lofted pass.
The visitors had a strong penalty appeal declined on 57 minutes when Robertson’s drilled cross appeared to strike Antonio Valencia’s arm, but they were back in the game nine minutes later when Bailly clumsily turned Sadio Mane’s cross into his own net.
In a pulsating finale, substitute Georginio Wijnaldum’s rasping 18-yard drive deflected inches wide, a last-gasp Bailly tackle halted a dangerous Mane run into the area and, into the sixth-minute of stoppage time, Salah blazed a volley over as Liverpool’s hopes of a comeback failed to materialise.