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Sparky's spree saves United

Mark Hughes was Manchester United's hero with two goals in the final 11 minutes as the Old Trafford side clawed back from a two-goal deficit with fierce rivals Liverpool.

Hughes struck in the 79th and 89th minutes to stun Graeme Souness' Merseysiders, who looked to be cruising to a comfortable victory.
But the combative Welshman had other ideas and led a one-man fightback before a 33,243 crowd.

As the minutes ticked away, United had become increasingly frantic, but it was a piece of calm, cool and calculated brilliance from the Welsh international that set them on their way.

Substitute Clayton Blackmore centred and Hughes met it on the volley to lob the ball brilliantly over Bruce Grobbelaar. It still seemed a task too far for Alex Ferguson's side as Liverpool defended determinedly and often desperately, but in the dying moments Hughes sent Old Trafford into uproar with a superb diving header to convert Giggs' cross.

The Old Trafford fans had been strangely quiet in a first half where Liverpool bossed the play, despite their lowly league position and a catalogue of injuries. Playing some exquisite, flowing football there was, however, more than a touch of fortune behind their opening goal.

The impressive 21-year-old Don Hutchison let fly in the 23rd minute and saw his shot take a marked deflection off United skipper Steve Bruce and end up in the bottom corner of the net.

Hutchison had another chance in the 38th minute, but saw his shot blocked and turned behind for a corner, and Ronnie Rosenthal could also have added to their lead after being put through by Jan Molby.

Rosenthal, though, made amends on the stroke of half-time when he burst clear into the left of the penalty area before squaring the ball to ian Rush, unmarked and just seven yards out for his first goal at Old Trafford.

That looked to have put the seal on a Liverpool triumph. Rush had scored his first ever goal against United at Anfield last April in a 2-0 victory, which finally killed off United's championship dream and it now looked as if his score would inflict another painful blow.

But United, who have lost only twice in their last 13 meetings with Liverpool, refused to throw in the towel. Ryan Giggs, who received the Barclays Young Eagle of the Month award for October before the match, was a constant threat, but there did not seem to be a way through until Hughes finally found the key.

It was a terrible final 11 minutes for Liverpool, who also saw Molby stretchered off with what appeared to be a serious knee injury following a Darren Ferguson tackle.

Afterwards the United boss said: "We looked like a side in need of inspiration and Mark certainly provided it. I don't know whether he knew if Bruce Grobbelaar was off his line for the first goal but it was a terrific finish. And the second goal was every bit as good and in those closing minutes we looked the sort of team that I expect from a Manchester United side."

Hughes, who scored the winner at Brighton in the Coca-Cola Cup, the winner for Wales and now two more vital strikes to make it four goals in three games was delighted. He said: "The first goal came completely out of the blue but it gave the impetus to get going and put them under pressure. We hadn't been playing particularly well up until then. I have been criticised in the past for not scoring enough goals and I accept that criticism to a certain extent because I haven't been getting into the box as much as I would like to. But that's four goals in my last three games and I don't think anyone can complain about that."

And Hughes paid tribute to his international team-mate saying: "For the past decade ian Rush has been the top scorer in the country and for any player to score the amount of goals he has is phenomenal."

Rush said: "Obviously I am proud and privileged to have beaten the record of a great player like Roger Hunt. He was my father's hero. My dad used to call him Sir Roger. But while it's nice to have got the record I would rather the side had got the win we deserved."

Liverpool manager Graeme Souness said: "We are sick because we had three points in our grasp, but our inexperience and lack of ring-craft cost two of them, but we played really well - the youngsters especially."

And about the injury that saw Danish international Jan Molby stretchered off Souness explained: "At first we thought he had a broken leg, but now we think it is ankle ligaments. He's going for X-Rays and we should know tomorrow the extent of the injury."

Copyright - British Soccer Week

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