Man Utd 0 Liverpool 1
By Paul Higham
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
The last thing under-fire Reds boss Gerard Houllier wanted in his side's recent slump was a trip to Old Trafford, but a battling performances from his side did enough to frustrate Sir Alex Ferguson's men.
In a game of few chances, United were unable to trouble Jerzy Dudek enough for their liking, and Murphy's 63rd minute penalty was enough to give Liverpool and moral-boosting victory.
United, looking to pressure Chelsea in second place, started off the game brighter and were on top in the opening ten minutes as Liverpool, with just Michael Owen up front, were happy to sit back.
Owen was left free from a long throw-in on the quarter hour and he was allowed to race into the box on his own, but he was left isolated on a narrow angle and could only roll the ball across the face of goal with nobody in support.
Cristiano Ronaldo was the main danger for United, as he was again full of tricks down the wing, and he set-up Louis Saha inside the box but the Frenchman's bundled shot was easily saved by Jerzy Dudek.
Darren Fletcher then dragged a shot wide after good build-up play from the hosts as they gained the upper hand in terms of pressure and possession.
However, the visitors had spells of good possession themselves and John Arne Riise's powerful free kick was deflected while Dietmar Hamann flashed a shot over the bar.
The second half started strangely quiet for a game between these two old rivals, with Liverpool sticking to their game plan of trying to keep the ball without really threatening to go forward.
United were looking to push on, but the game sprung into life at the other end just after the hour mark when Mike Riley, who gave the Red Devils two penalties in the corresponding fixture last season, awarded the visitors a penalty.
Steve Gerrard flew past Roy Keane before storming into the box were his progress was halted by Gary Neville's late sliding challenge and Riley had no option but to point to the spot.
After missing a host of spot kicks, Danny Murphy took charge from Owen and Gerrard, and he made no mistake by coolly slotting the ball past Tim Howard to send the visiting support wild.
United took a while to respond to the goal, and they so nearly equalised when Ryan Giggs came in at the far post to connect with Saha's cross only for his shot to strike both posts and stay out.
Substitute Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was only inches away from connecting with Ronaldo's right wing cross as the Ferguson's side started to pile on the pressure.
Liverpool held on though to registar a much-needed victory and get their hunt for fourth place back on track.