United given an unholy scare

By Don Evans of "News of the World."

Manchester United are not the automatic League champions - not by the length of the East Lancs Road. United are still unbeaten and still have a ten point cushion from Liverpool but they were given an unholy scare and looked like losing for three-quarters of the game.

Ron Atkinson had moved Paul McGrath from defence to midfield before the game. In the 65th-minute the Republic of Ireland defender decided to go one better. And saved the day.

Deservedly leading less than a minute into the second-half Liverpool looked set to end United's unbeaten league record. Then came United's salvation. Mark Lawrenson, Liverpool's stylish defender got a bad bouncing ball in the way of an attempted clearance. McGrath saw the chance before most and as the ball broke he thundered in to almost crack an upright as he drove the equaliser in-off.

Craig Johnston had put Liverpool ahead ... a deserved reward for their early dominance and for a man who won the man-of-the-match award with tenacity in midfield and adventurous forward play.

Only 19 seconds after the re-start Johnston headed in an Ian Rush cross. Rush is still to get his first goal against United but he must have been delighted to have played such an important role in Liverpool's goal.

It was the first home League goal conceded at Old Trafford this season and more seemed set to follow. The few chances created in a fiercely contested game fell primarily to Liverpool.

Early aggression with flying tackles and boots to match was evident as men on both sides tried to stamp their authority. Yet surprisingly it was not until 71 minutes that a booking occurred, Norman Whiteside having his name taken for a tackle on John Wark. Wark was later taken off for Kevin MacDonald as manager Kenny Dalglish attempted to give fresh impetus to his midfield.

In the last quarter of the game United at last started to make the running with forward play which came close to winning them the match. First Bruce Grobbelaar had to twist backward to bring off a magnificent stop from Whiteside, but could do nothing as defender Alan Hansen's attempted clearance smacked against the crossbar and went to safety.

Complete injustice would have resulted from an own-goal then for if in the end it was United's rally that sticks in the memory one would, on quiet reflection, recall the cool superiority of Liverpool for so much of the match.

Enough, in fact, for those more optimistic Old Trafford fans to follow the example of the United staff, who insist that there's a long way to go yet. Liverpool proved their point in dramatic fashion.

Copyright - News of the World

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