After anti-Glazer protesters took to the ground and out onto the pitch 11 days ago, further protests failed to prevent Thursday’s Premier League game from unfolding in Old Trafford’s final game in behind closed doors.
United missed the chance to end Liverpool’s Champions League qualifying hopes as their fourth game in eight days ended in a first home loss to their bitter rivals since 2014.
OPINION: Lampard to Palace is a frankly terrible idea for everyone
The deflected effort of substitute skipper Bruno Fernandes had obtained Ole Gunnar SolskjaerThe team got off to a dream start, only for Diogo Jota tied with a smart shot after a penalty decision was overturned.
The equalizer came from a corner and United’s soft underbelly on a set piece was again exposed in the first half stoppage time, with Roberto Firmino coming home, the excellent free kick by Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Liverpool took a more lead 72 seconds after halftime as a comedy of mistakes at the back ended with Firmino coming home his second of the night.
United looked drunk on punch, but eventually rallied as Marcus Rashford cut the deficit, before Nat Phillips – who had deflected Fernandes’ home opener – cleared a Mason Greenwood attempt out of the box. line.
Mohamed Salah assured United would lose their sixth home league game of the season, rushing to death as Liverpool placed fifth and four points behind Chelsea with a game in hand.
It was an exhilarating game which followed a disturbed build-up, with United players arriving on the ground early in the afternoon to avoid protesters as executive boxes were transformed into rest areas.
Liverpool stayed in a city center hotel and saw a club-branded bus blocked by cars, but the players were not on board and arrived through a rear entrance as protesters descended at the main entrance .
The sound of a police helicopter echoed across the heavily guarded pitch at the start of the match, with Edinson Cavani – among 10 changes – losing a glorious chance in the fifth minute after an Alisson Becker mistake.
But United continued strong and opened the scoring in the 10th minute. Paul Pogba swept a ball to the right and Rashford played against Aaron Wan-Bissaka, whose cut found Fernandes and his shot went to Phillips.
Liverpool dug deep after that shaky start and Dean Henderson thwarted Jota, before referee Anthony Taylor pointed the spot after a tall order with Eric Bailly over Phillips.
But the video assistant referee stepped in and the decision was overturned after Anthony Taylor looked at the field monitor.
Pogba took the lead just on the other end but Liverpool looked sharp and Jota saw a scathing strike tip over with United failing to clear their lines from the resulting corner.
Salah’s initial effort was stalled and Phillips kept it alive, before returning a weak effort to the goal as Jota cleverly made its way home.
Liverpool fell back as half-time approached. Alexander-Arnold sent a stoppage free kick to the far post, where Firmino took behind Pogba and propelled the lead home.
Things turned from bad to worse for the hosts 72 seconds into the second half.
Seemingly getting off with a loose pass from Fred, Luke Shaw saw his defensive exit cut short. Liverpool grabbed that second chance as Firmino brought the ball home after Henderson knocked down Alexander-Arnold’s scathing strike.
United looked determined to shoot themselves in the foot and Fred almost offered Liverpool a fourth. The visitors broke after receiving the ball and Jota hit a post.
Henderson almost denied Alexander-Arnold after an even sloppier play, but United put the gear on by moving forward and narrowing the deficit in the 68th minute.
Cavani collected a pass from Rashford and proceeded to put England behind the baseline to send a low shot via a light touch from Andrew Robertson.
United came close to making 3-3 two minutes later, only for the luck of substitute Greenwood to be cleared from the line by Phillips.
Henderson stopped Sadio Mane from passing in a ruthless conclusion, with Rashford hitting the side net and Fernandes missing with a plunging free kick.
But Liverpool would not be denied as Salah ran and kept his cool to beat Henderson.