Liverpool vs. Manchester United: 6 Things We Learned
Liverpool's perfect start to the season continued with a victory that they will have cherished more than most.
Daniel Sturridge's early goal on Sunday afternoon was enough to see off old rivals Manchester United and give the Reds three wins out of three in the 2013/14 Premier League season, a run which sees them sitting proudly on top of the table.
All of the victories have been by one goal to nil, and all of them have seen the in-form Sturridge bag the winner, but this one was easily the most nervy one of the trio as the visitors dominated possession in the second half and continually threatened an equaliser.
One never arrived though, ensuring that new United boss David Moyes has still never managed to win a game at Anfield, a run which haunted him during his 11 years as Everton manager.
Not that that will concern Liverpool, though, who head into the international break in the finest of form.
Here are six things we learned from an afternoon the Red half of Merseyside will remember fondly.
There Is Life in Martin Skrtel Yet
Julian Finney/Getty Images
Given Kolo Toure's fine start to the season, and with Tiago Ilori and more importantly Mamadou Sakho watching Sunday's events transpire from the Anfield stands, if ever there was a time for Martin Skrtel to put in a good performance then this was it.
The Slovakian centre-back has been out of favour since being dislodged from the team by Jamie Carragher in January, with the nadir coming when he and Sebastian Coates were dominated by Oldham's Matt Smith in Liverpool's embarrassing FA Cup loss at Boundary Park last season.
Many would have been forgiven for feeling that Skrtel would be long gone from Anfield just a day before the closure of the transfer window, and whilst his long-term Anfield future has to still come under question, he was excellent on Sunday.
Many a defender has suffered at the hands of Robin van Persie, but with no little physicality to his performance, Skrtel put in a terrific display to blunt the Dutchman, at least until his late chance that he fired wide.
With Sakho and Toure around to compete for a place alongside Daniel Agger, who is presumably safe, at the heart of the Reds defence, Skrtel's future is unclear. But if this is his last major match for Liverpool, it was certainly a good one.
Daniel Sturridge's Inventiveness Is a Huge Strength
Alex Livesey/Getty Images
You get the impression that Daniel Sturridge has often had to curb his enthusiasm throughout his football career, with his natural and sometimes outrageous talents leading many to label him "greedy" and "not a team player."
At Liverpool under Brendan Rodgers, though, he seems to be being encouraged to go with the flow.
Goals obviously help a forward's confidence, but it is tempting to think that Sturridge once wouldn't have instinctively flicked Agger's header goalwards in the manner that he did just three minutes into the contest. He'd have been too preoccupied with other thoughts.
That flicked header turned out to be the only goal, ensuing that Sturridge's three strikes have earned Liverpool nine points so far this season and put them on top of the table.
That must do wonders for the confidence of a player who seemingly can do no wrong at the moment, and Rodgers will only encourage and applaud the inventiveness which is serving Sturridge and his teammates so well.
Let him be himself. It's working.
David Moyes Must Hate Anfield
Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Not once in his 11 years as Everton manager did David Moyes win a Merseyside derby at the home of his nearest and not-so-dearest rivals, and his first crack at a win there in his new job didn't go to plan either.
Often in his visits with the Blues, Everton were accused of freezing on the big occasion and not making the most of what were frequently promising opportunities, but you couldn't level that criticism at Manchester United here.
For large periods of the game, it was they who were the better team on the ball, but a lack of attacking incisiveness often let them down. Visiting fans were left wondering what difference a Wayne Rooney or a Shinji Kagawa would make to their team. One was ruled out with a head injury, whilst the other continues to be mysteriously overlooked.
Sturridge's early goal was something of a sucker punch for Moyes and his side, and thereafter they huffed and puffed without really looking too convincing.
Set pieces were a particular weak point, whilst Lucas and Steven Gerrard were able to marshal a United midfield sill curiously lacking that key figure they have been crying out for for so long.
It remains to be seen whether they'll sign one on Monday, but right now Moyes must just be happy that, barring the FA Cup draw, that's his last visit to Anfield for another year.
Simon Mignolet Looks Like a Bargain
Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Before Sunday, only two goalkeepers in Liverpool history had started their Reds career by keeping three consecutive clean sheets in the league, but Simon Mignolet swelled their number with another impressive outing.
The Belgian had done so much to help record those shutouts at home to Stoke and away at Aston Villa that he was always likely to have to do a little less here. But when he was called upon, he handled both himself and the ball superbly once more.
The standout save was probably the one from Nani's stinging, swerving late shot, and whilst he probably would have expected to save that one anyway, it was another example of just how at home he looks in this Liverpool side.
A comparison to today's opposite is perhaps an apt one.
David De Gea struggled initially following his multi-million pound transfer to Manchester United from Atletico Madrid in the summer of 2011, but there was never going to be anything similar from ex-Sunderland man Mignolet seeing as he was already so familiar with the English game.
De Gea has since gone on to prove how good he is, of course. But at less than half the price, Liverpool appear to have got themselves a goalkeeper they can rely on for years to come.
He's started as he means to go on.
Liverpool Are Getting Some Strength in Reserve
Stanley Chou/Getty Images
A substitutes bench consisting of Brad Jones, Andre Wisdom, Martin Kelly, Jon Flanagan, Luis Alberto, Jordon Ibe and Raheem Sterling won't go down as one of the strongest in Liverpool history, but arguably there was more attention on a few new faces in the directors' box anyway.
Because there, sitting alongside summer recruits Kolo Toure and Aly Cissokho, were Victor Moses, Mamadou Sakho and Tiago Ilori.
The trio are expected to make their moves to Anfield official on transfer deadline day, per Phil McNulty of BBC, with all of them offering the Reds squad some much-needed depth just when they seem to need it most.
At just 20, Ilori could well be seen as one for the future despite his huge potential, but Sakho and Moses could have huge parts to play right from the off.
Comfortably Liverpool's most expensive summer addition, French international centre-back Sakho is likely to go straight into the team regardless of Toure's impressive displays this season and Skrtel's strong performance here. The Paris Saint-Germain crowd favourite could quickly find a similar status at Anfield.
Those fans know more about Chelsea's Moses, of course, and the loan move could turn out to be beneficial to all parties given the lack of Premier League experience in Liverpool's wide areas. Iago Aspas struggled with the pace of this game whilst Sterling is still very raw.
With Liverpool in the perfect position to launch an assault on the top places in the league table, these signings could prove to be crucial ones.
Bill Shankly Still Educates and Inspires
Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Monday will be Bill Shankly's 100th birthday, and although it is also 32 years to the month of his death, the legacy and traditions that he laid down in Liverpool are still so prevalent to this day.
The legendary former Reds boss was always a believer in hard work, and the way that the current Reds side grafted and chiseled their way to this victory would no doubt have pleased him.
Some may mock Liverpool's connection to their past, but on days like this, it almost acts as a twelfth man, a comfort blanket to protect the club from the rigours of the modern game.
Right now that club is top of the top flight.
Just where Shankly would believe they always belong.