Manchester United came from behind to force a 1-1 draw with Liverpool and open up a one-point lead at the top of the Premier League on Saturday.
An 81st-minute equaliser from substitute Javier Hernandez salvaged a share of the points for Sir Alex Ferguson’s men after Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard had fired the Merseysiders ahead on 68 minutes.
Ferguson’s decision to leave Wayne Rooney, Nani and Hernandez on the bench appeared to have backfired after Gerrard, making his first start since March, rifled in a free-kick midway through the second half.
All three United substitutes were brought on in the wake of Liverpool’s opener, and Ferguson was duly rewarded when Hernandez nodded home from close range after a clever flick-on by Danny Welbeck from a United corner.
Liverpool, who remain in fifth place following the draw, might have snatched victory in the final 10 minutes only to be denied by a string of saves from United keeper David de Gea.
The Spanish shot-stopper pulled off a brilliant reflex save to deny Dirk Kuyt on 82 minutes and also did well to parry away a teasing lob from substitute Jordan Henderson.
The draw means Manchester City can go top of the table later Saturday if they defeat Aston Villa at Eastlands.
Ferguson had earlier revealed he benched Rooney after revealing the player was “devastated” by this week’s three-match suspension from Euro 2012 following his red card on England duty.
“(Rooney) was devastated by the suspension,” Ferguson told Sky Sports. “He’s had a bad week. I just felt that under the circumstances he was better starting on the bench. He’s had a bad blow this week with the suspension.”
Watch video highlights below:
Liverpool 1-0 Manchester United (Gerrard)
Liverpool 1-1 Manchester United (Hernandez)