Liverpool 1 Manchester United 2
By Mark Buckingham
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
A slightly fortuitous Ryan Giggs brace put the champions in command before Harry Kewell set up a frantic finale but The Reds were unable to nick the goal to secure a deserved draw.
In a wretched first half, neither goalkeeper had a save to make with Kewell demonstrating the most attacking verve, particularly in the absence of the injured Michael Owen.
Liverpool dictated the early tempo and their willingness to run at the United rearguard created openings, with the best being Vladimir Smicer's dart into the box but his pass from the byline was behind Emile Heskey.
A moment of controversy arrived in the 33rd minute when Ruud van Nistelrooy was booked for handball after attempting to connect with Giggs' cross although the Dutchman was upset at El Hadji Diouf's protestations.
Kewell twice set his sights in the latter stages of the half, first curling a dipping shot just over the bar and then dashing to the near post to flick a cross off target.
Just over a minute after the break and a goalkeeper was belatedly called upon as Tim Howard pushed away Kewell's swerving 25-yard shot.
Jerzy Dudek was the villain in last season's meeting at Anfield and the Polish international almost cast himself in the same role on 52 minutes. His poor clearance was straight to Giggs whose sweetly struck first time volley was heading into the back of the net but Dudek despairingly scampered across his area to keep the ball out.
The deadlock was broken just prior to the hour mark when Giggs' cross drifted across the area, evaded both attackers and defenders, and nestled into the corner of the net with Dudek floundering.
With Smicer and Heskey both ineffective as an attacking force, it was left to Kewell to carry the forward fight and the Australian's trickery created a chance which he fired low at Howard.
But The Red Devils poached the second on 70 minutes when Diego Forlan's cross found its way to Giggs at the far post and the Welshman's low shot deflected off Sami Hyypia and Dudek before rippling the net.
The hosts forced their way back into the contest on 76 minutes and, inevitably, it was Kewell, with the former Leeds United man side-footing home at the far post after substitute Florent Sinama-Pongolle dug out a cross.
Sinama-Pongolle then had a justifiable claim for a penalty waved away by Graham Poll after he tumbled under a challenge from Rio Ferdinand, who failed to connect with the ball.
The French youngster injected vigour into Liverpool's game and almost capitalised on a Howard mistake while Mikael Silvestre produced a last-ditch tackle to thwart Danny Murphy.
In injury time, Liverpool should have levelled after Murphy's threaded ball into the box picked out Heskey but the much-maligned England international slipped as he aimed to shoot and the match ebbed away.