Liverpool's youngsters experienced a frustrating evening at Anfield on Friday, slipping to a narrow 1-0 defeat against Manchester United in the Barclays U21 Premier League national semi-final.

Alex Inglethorpe's side fought hard for 90 minutes against their bitter rivals, but in the end they were unlocked by a simply unstoppable first-half effort from Andreas Pereira.

Minutes before the interval, the United starlet manoeuvred into a yard of space and sent a stunning effort spiralling into the Kop net from range to clinch the decisive strike.

Under the watchful eye of Brendan Rodgers, Kenny Dalglish, Jamie Carragher and a congregation of vocal home supporters, the Reds took to the Anfield turf as 'You'll Never Walk Alone' boomed out.

It felt like a special occasion, but it felt like one United were determined to spoil - and they almost dampened the mood within moments of the game being underway.

James Wilson, who has plundered 20 goals at U18 and U21 level for the Red Devils this season, clattered the post after pouncing on Brad Smith's attempted pass to send alarm bells ringing after just three minutes.

It took Liverpool time to subdue the visitors' early menace. But when they settled, they were impressive, skimming the ball across the turf with a composure that belied their tender years.

Joao Carlos Teixeira swarmed back and forth across the field, picking the ball up here, laying it off there, attempting to draw navy shirts out of position. Behind him, Jordan Lussey was solid and inventive.

He tore United apart, curling the ball low down the left side-line, along the chalk for 35 yards, until it reached the boot of Brad Smith and from there, the head of Kristoffer Peterson, who powered over the bar.

Liverpool were diligent and tidy in possession, but on the whole, United were disciplined and staunch all over the pitch. They offered up little space for the likes of Cameron Brannagan or Ryan McLaughlin, who hurtled down the right flank, to expose.

They sent out a statement of intent when an in-swinging corner fell to Patrick McNair and his drive induced chaos in the penalty area. However, eyes fixed on his target, Ryan Fulton lunged into a cluster of bodies to smother the loose ball.

Jack Dunn arrowed a strike inches over the bar at the Anfield Road end, but  United were beginning to break quicker and with more efficiency towards the Kop, sparking a flurry of activity in the minutes leading up to the interval.

Tom Lawrence came to life for the opposition, sending Liverpool players back-peddling with a series of surges towards goal. However, when Lussey robbed him of possession and released Dunn, the game truly opened up as an end-to-end encounter.

And United took full advantage of that. Moments before half-time, Pereira fashioned a goal out of nothing. Picking up the play out on the left, he cut inside effortlessly before opening up his body to curl into the corner of the Kop net.

None of the intensity which accompanied the closing exchanges of the first half disappeared in the second. Peterson raced clear to fire at Ben Amos at one end, Pereira sprung away before being clattered by Rafael Paez at the other.

The former Real Madrid man, Paez, towered in front of the Kop moments later to connect with Brannagan's perfect pass into the centre, but the Spaniard directed his header straight at Amos.

James Weir came on for the visitors, tasked with stalking and subduing the threat of Teixeira as Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt watched from the stands.

The tricky Pereira embarked on a mazy 50-yard run, steamrolling beyond three red shirts only to be kept at bay by a brave block from Lloyd Jones. Lawrence swerved wide and Fulton made a fine double-save from Ben Pearson.

Liverpool pressed. Peterson looked to unlock the league's firmest defence by threading through to Dunn, but Amos rushed out to claim. Smith whipped a dangerous cross into the penalty area, but no red shirt was racing through to connect.

The Kop was on its feet when Paez turned Lussey's deep free-kick into the path of Peterson, who powered a header narrowly over; however, the linesman had already hoisted his flag to indicate the young Swede was offside.

Then came the best chance of the match. The Reds played through United, pulling them to pieces and carving space for Lussey to hammer at the 'keeper. His shot was stopped and the ball fell to substitute Villyan Bijev, who fired over the bar from close-range.

Then, with minutes of normal time remaining, Smith curled into the middle and Bijev powered a header agonisingly close; however, United held on to progress to the final.