Javier Hernandez’s 81st minute equaliser meant that it finished honours even in a tight contest between Liverpool and Manchester United as both sides cancelled each other out for much of what was a far from vintage derby.
After a sloppy first half, Liverpool had the better of the play but the game only really came alive when Steven Gerrard marked his return to the starting line up with a somewhat fortuitous free kick.
Gerrard sneaked the ball through the United wall when Ryan Giggs left a gap and David De Gea, who made a number of good saves, had no time to react.
When the opening goal finally came Alex Ferguson had already prepared his changes and Wayne Rooney and Nani were introduced as the champions like Liverpool had struggled to find the break through pass as both sides pressed and defended in numbers throughout the game.
Despite the quality of Ferguson’s first pair of changes, it was the Mexican Hernandez’s introduction five minutes later that finally made the difference.
With the three substitutions United changed tack with Rooney dropping in behind the front three of Hernandez, Nani and Daniel Welbeck.
Liverpool were still coming to grips with the shift when Ryan Giggs’ corner was flicked to the back post by Welbeck and some bright movement from Hernandez freed him from Martin Skrtel leaving him with to head home inside the six yard box.
The game may have have started slow with both teams bogged down by loose play but it ended frantically as the withdrawal of Lucas and Phil Jones opened up the midfield and Liverpool may feel they were unlucky not to come away with all three points.
De Gea impressed from the start in a commanding performance but his save at full stretch from substitute Jordan Henderson’s well struck volley was his standout contribution of the day.
Moments later Henderson did well to find space between Rio Ferdinand and Johnny Evans to meet Stewart Downing’s fine cross but the young midfielder couldn’t direct his free header on target.
The referee blew the whistle soon after and called time on what was an untypically sporting clash between these two and the only real incident of the day came when Patrice Evra talked himself into the referees book after a tetchy exchange with Luis Suarez.
The Uruguayan never reached the heights of his performance in last year’s fixture but as always he managed to make nuisance of himself among the United back line and prior to Gerrard’s free he looked the most likely to score.
In the end though a draw was the fair outcome as both sides put on resolute if unspectacular displays.