Anfield celebrated yesterday's centenary of Bill Shankly's birthday with a performance against Manchester United that embodied the late, great manager's ethos of everyone at Liverpool bonded by a common purpose - of a "holy trinity of players, manager and supporters" giving everything in their different ways for victory. With a nod to the past, Liverpool look positively towards the future.

Even after their best start since 1994, predictions of Liverpool joining the title race may be too premature but Anfield is awash with optimism.

The most important element of the holy trinity, the players, excelled, particularly Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger, Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson, Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge. Against lacklustre champions sorely missing Wayne Rooney's spark, Skrtel and company kept the shape and discipline and deservedly prevailed.

Skrtel's immense display at the back brought to mind one of Shankly's famous quotes about Ron Yeats that "with him in defence, we could play Arthur Askey in goal".

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Liverpool have the capable shot-stopper Simon Mignolet but he was well protected by Skrtel. In constantly frustrating Robin van Persie Skrtel highlighted why so many clubs would like to sign him.

Liverpool's supreme work-rate also underpinned the movement of Sturridge, who harried United's defenders relentlessly and took his early goal superbly.

The second element of the holy trinity, Brendan Rodgers, got his tactics right, using a 4-2-3-1 system with Gerrard and Lucas commanding central midfield.

Rodgers is making Liverpool feared again, making the "This is Anfield" sign put up by Shankly even more of a statement of intent.

The most numerous section of the holy trinity, the fans, played their part, exhorting Liverpool throughout and finishing with a deafening You'll Never Walk Alone as the old foe were defeated.

Liverpool started strongly, scoring after four minutes. Gerrard curled a corner across, Rio Ferdinand was too sluggish and Agger angled a header towards the far post. Sturridge intervened, heading the ball past Cleverley.

Liverpool largely controlled the first half, particularly when the ball was enjoying the company of the elegant Coutinho. The Brazilian glided around Cleverley but shot wide. Gerrard went close with a shot and a free-kick. For United, Danny Welbeck worried Mignolet.

The fixture's usual hand-bagging broke out. Van Persie and Agger had a staring match. Van Persie and Giggs took it in turns to bring down Coutinho. Cleverley clattered Coutinho. Van Persie nailed Agger with a late challenge. The sour atmosphere continued with Michael Carrick catching Aspas and the half ending with Van Persie accusing Skrtel of an elbow and Liverpool claiming a punch thrown.

The second half was an advertisement for United's shortage of ideas and Liverpool's abundance of defensive excellence. Van Persie and Young had shots blocked and Mignolet made a good save from Nani. Down the other end, Raheem Sterling was denied by David De Gea.

The final whistle brought an unbelievable roar from the Kop.

Shankly would have approved.