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Result: Super sub Xherdan Shaqiri sends Liverpool top with Anfield brace

Xherdan Shaqiri scores twice from the bench as Liverpool beat arch-rivals Manchester United 3-1 to return to the top of the Premier League.

Liverpool have returned to the top of the Premier League with a 3-1 victory over Manchester United, earning the win through a couple of deflected strikes from substitute Xherdan Shaqiri.

The Swiss attacker was brought on 20 minutes from time and made a huge impact on the game, putting his side back in front 144 seconds after being introduced and sealing the Reds' 14th league win of the season with a second late on.

United, previously unbeaten in their previous eight meetings with arch-rivals Liverpool in all competitions, managed just two shots on target all afternoon - one of those being Jesse Lingard's close-range finish from an Alisson Becker howler to cancel out Sadio Mane's opener.

Liverpool dominated the second half and were rewarded through substitute Shaqiri, who becomes the first Reds player to score multiple goals in a home Premier League game in this fixture since Dirk Kuyt in March 2011.

Xherdan Shaqiri gets his second and the home side's third during the Premier League game between Liverpool and Manchester United on December 16, 2018© Reuters

Not since 1990 had Liverpool enjoyed a bigger points margin on United heading into a league game, and the gulf between the sides was there to see in the opening quarter of the match.

After playing out back-to-back goalless draws here, it soon became clear that there would be goals on Merseyside as Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah both had efforts kept out in a high-tempo opening 12 minutes.

Liverpool's attacking play was rewarded a quarter of the way through as Mane ended his eight-game scoring drought by getting in front of Ashley Young, chesting down Fabinho's lofted pass and tucking the ball under David de Gea without the ball touching the ground.

Roberto Firmino embraces Xherdan Shaqiri in celebration during the Premier League game between Liverpool and Manchester United on December 16, 2018© Reuters

Dejan Lovren was then guilty of missing a good opportunity from close range once Firmino worked the ball back into the centre-back's path, and that would prove costly six minutes later when Lingard snatched an equaliser.

United had a Young goal correctly ruled out for offside against Romelu Lukaku early in the match, while Marcus Rashford got in a well-struck shot from range, but there was nothing to suggest that Liverpool's goal was under threat.

The equaliser was gifted to them by Alisson, though, with the Brazilian failing to keep hold of Lukaku's low cross, spilling the ball into the path of Lingard to score his first away league goal since New Year's Day.

Sadio Mane gets the opener during the Premier League game between Liverpool and Manchester United on December 16, 2018© Reuters

Mane had a shot kept out from 20 yards after once again being teed up by Fabinho as Liverpool attempted to regain their advantage, but the tempo of the match dropped as the teams went into the break all square.

With his side badly overrun in midfield during the first half, Jose Mourinho - boasting the best away record of any boss to have managed five or more games at Anfield before today - brought on Marouane Fellaini for Diogo Dalot and reverted to a four-man defence.

The change provided United with some much-needed midfield steel, but it was still Liverpool who were on top throughout the second half as Firmino's poked shot - after showing some sublime footwork to get away from a few players - was blocked by De Gea.

Jesse Lingard gets the equaliser during the Premier League game between Liverpool and Manchester United on December 16, 2018© Reuters

Virgil van Dijk was then denied by a block inside the box and both Georginio Wijnaldum and Fabinho saw weak attempts from further back easily dealt with by De Gea.

Mourinho's men were dealing with everything that was being chucked at them as the game entered its final 20 minutes, at which point Jurgen Klopp gambled by bringing on Shaqiri for Naby Keita.

The substitution paid instant dividends as Shaqiri rifled the ball in off the underside of the crossbar minutes after being introduced, profiting from some good work from Mane out wide in the build-up.

Ander Herrera reacts during the Premier League game between Liverpool and Manchester United on December 16, 2018© Reuters

De Gea flicked Mane's cross as far as Shaqiri, who had enough time to pick his spot - with a helping hand from a touch off Young - despite United having six players inside the box.

A second Shaqiri goal followed before full time, sending his latest shot flying past De Gea, this time with a telling deflection off Eric Bailly - brought into United's starting lineup shortly before kickoff due to a Chris Smalling injury.

Defeat for United leaves them sixth in the table and now 11 points adrift of fourth-placed Chelsea.

LIVERPOOL (4-3-3): De Gea; Darmian, Smalling, Lindelof; Dalot (Fellaini 46'), Lingard (Mata 85'), Matic, Herrera (Martial 79'), Young; Rashford, Lukaku

MANCHESTER UNITED (3-5-2): Alisson; Clyne, Lovren, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Keita (Shaqiri 70'); Mane (Henderson 84'), Firmino, Salah

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Liverpool striker Mohamed Salah celebrates with Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane after opening the scoring during his side's Premier League clash with Brighton & Hove Albion on August 25, 2018
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
CManchester CityMan City38322495237298
2Liverpool38307189226797
3Chelsea38219863392472
4Tottenham HotspurSpurs382321367392871
5Arsenal382171073512270
6Manchester UnitedMan Utd381991065541166
7Wolverhampton WanderersWolves38169134746157
8Everton38159145446854
9Leicester CityLeicester38157165148352
10West Ham UnitedWest Ham38157165255-352
11Watford38148165259-750
12Crystal Palace38147175153-249
13Newcastle UnitedNewcastle38129174248-645
14Bournemouth38136195670-1445
15Burnley38117204568-2340
16Southampton38912174565-2039
17Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton3899203560-2536
RCardiff CityCardiff38104243469-3534
RFulham3875263481-4726
RHuddersfield TownHuddersfield3837282276-5416

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