With Suarez marginalised for far too much of the game, the expected shoot-out between the Uruguayan and van Persie failed to materialise.
And United, fielding Rio Ferdinand and Vidic at the heart of defence for the first time since September, were aided by a completely ineffective Liverpool attacking showing during a dismal opening 45 minutes from the visitors.
Allen, the only change from the team that thumped Sunderland 3-0 in Liverpool’s last Premier League outing, was particularly below par, his distribution poor with the Welshman completely lost amid the midfield scrap.
He wasn’t alone, however, as a seemingly intimidated Liverpool persistently stood off their opponents, reluctant to make even a token attempt at a challenge.
That was never more apparent than when United forged ahead with their first real attack. Tom Cleverley and Shinji Kagawa were allowed to play around the Liverpool midfield before the ball was spread wide to Patrice Evra, whose low cross was turned in by van Persie ahead of Daniel Agger.
Allen was twice relieved to see United fail to capitalise on his sloppy play. On 33 minutes, the Welshman played a dreadful backpass intended for Pepe Reina but instead pounced upon by Danny Welbeck, whose shot was brilliantly blocked by Agger.
And shortly afterwards, Allen directed a clearing backheader straight to Cleverley whose volley flashed narrowly wide.
Andre Wisdom was similarly wayward with one pass that sent Welbeck in only for Skrtel to save the situation with an excellent tackle, while on the stroke of half-time the Slovakian centre-back cleared van Persie’s flick off the line from Rafael’s low cross.
The second goal, though, arrived on 54 minutes. Skrtel bundled over Welbeck, and a criminally unmarked Patrice Evra was allowed to meet van Persie’s free-kick at the far post for a header that diverted in off Vidic.
Those complaining Vidic may have been offside should be reminded Skrtel, as last man, could easily have been dismissed by referee Howard Webb.
However, the arrival of Sturridge and a switch to 4-4-2 had breathed new life into Liverpool, and the visitors pulled a goal back three minutes later when, after Gerrard tackled Michael Carrick and exchanged passes with Sterling, the Liverpool skipper’s shot was parried by David de Gea and Sturridge reacted ahead of Rafael to score.
Reina made a flying save to deny Shinji Kagawa but otherwise Liverpool dominated the final quarter. Glen Johnson and Sturridge fired narrowly wide, substitute Fabio Borini – making his first appearance since October – volleyed off target and Sturridge steered the best chance wastefully over five minutes from time after Suarez had caused consternation in the United area.
Sturridge also shot into the side-netting late on, but the damage had already been done. Not quite back to the drawing board for Liverpool, but a reminder much, much painful work lies ahead.
MAN OF THE MATCH. Daniel Agger. Helped keep Liverpool in contention during a difficult first half