| Manchester United’s Ryan Giggs (centre) celebrates one of his his two goals against Liverpool with Ruud van Nistelrooy (left) and Roy Keane at Anfield on Sunday. (Reuters)
Liverpool: Manchester United produced another important victory on Sunday, winning 2-1 at big rivals Liverpool without playing anything like their best.
Ryan Giggs struck twice in the space of 11 minutes in the second half to take the defending champions back to within two points of Arsenal at the top of the table and at the same time leave Liverpool further adrift of a coveted top-four place.
Despite Harry Kewell’s fourth league goal of the season, which gave them late hope, Liverpool’s mini-revival ended in the continued absence of England international Michael Owen.
Owen is yet to recover from a shin injury sustained at the start of last month and without him Liverpool lacked the cutting edge to capitalise on below-par United performance.
Only when France under-21 international Florent Sinama-Pongolle came off the bench after 63 minutes did Liverpool really threaten as his pace caused the visitors defence numerous problems.
His cross gave Kewell the chance to make it 2-1 with 15 minutes left and Liverpool looked certain to equalise through Danny Murphy until Mikael Silvestre made a superb tackle.
In injury time, Murphy played a superb ball through for Emile Heskey but the striker wasted the chance when he pulled the ball wide from eight metres.
United had looked lethargic in the first half but improved after the interval and went close when Giggs collected a poor clearance from goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek and fired in a first-time volley which had Dudek scrambling to save.
With 58 minutes gone Dudek was again caught out by Giggs when the Welsh international cut inside and this time his in-swinging left-footed cross-shot eluded everyone and bounced into the far corner from 35 metres out.
That was Giggs’ third goal of the campaign and it did not take him long to get number four as he controlled a Diego Forlan cross before firing home a shot that Dudek might have saved.
United’s win lifted their points tally to 28, two less than Arsenal who beat Tottenham 2-1 on Saturday. Chelsea, on 26 points, were hosting Newcastle later on Sunday.