Dalglish says United sets the standard
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish admits Manchester United have set the modern-day benchmark for success - but insists the status quo should not just be accepted.
The Scot played a major part both on and off the field in the trophy-laden dynasty established by the Merseysiders in the 1970s and 1980s.
However, as the last Reds boss to win the league title in 1990, Dalglish is all too familiar with the shift in power which took place almost as soon as he quit Anfield two decades ago.
United, under Dalglish's long-time foe Sir Alex Ferguson, became the dominant force and their sustained success resulted in them eventually eclipsing Liverpool's proud record of 18 league titles last season.
The return of Dalglish to the manager's job last January raised expectations that the gulf between the two could be closed sooner rather than later and fans hoped the 3-1 win over their arch-rivals at Anfield last March was a portent of things to come.
This campaign has not gone entirely to plan, with defeats at Stoke and Tottenham already, but the only gap Dalglish is interested in closing is the one between his fifth-placed side and Ferguson's unbeaten league leaders six points further ahead.
"They are in a position that everyone wants to be in and that's top position in the league," said Dalglish.
"You cannot argue with that because you want to be there yourself.
"There is no point in being envious. They've set a standard for everyone else to follow or surpass and it's up to us to take up the challenge and we'll try our best to do that.
"We've got an opportunity to reduce the gap and it's up to us to take it.
"They are a fantastic team, a hugely successful football club, and we know it's going to be a very difficult game.
The international break came at the wrong time for Liverpool as they had just bounced back from those successive defeats to beat Wolves and Everton and restore confidence within the squad.
It has, however, allowed the Reds medical staff to get everyone back to full fitness and with their internationals reporting back with no problems, Dalglish has a fully fit squad for the first time this season.
The match could also see a first start in six months for captain Steven Gerrard, who has been out since March after groin surgery.
Coincidentally his last start came in that victory over United at Anfield and, after three substitute appearances totalling just under an hour, the midfielder is pushing to regain his place in the team.
But unlike previous years the group Dalglish has assembled, with the help of significant investment by Fenway Sports Group - who celebrate their first anniversary in charge on Saturday - is not solely reliant on their inspirational captain.
That has been highlighted by the number of chances created and goals scored by the likes of Luis Suarez, Stewart Downing, Charlie Adam, Andy Carroll and Jordan Henderson.
All are still in the first year of their Liverpool careers but, having been forced to play for a long spell without Gerrard, they have managed to be effective even if they have not yet hit top gear.
Dalglish, while not confirming it would happen against United, said the restoration of Gerrard to the side would not upset the balance.
"A game always changes with the personnel involved in the game," said the Reds boss.
"Steven is a fantastic player and has made a huge contribution to this club.
"In Steven's training and the match time he has had since he came back I don't think we have noticed much difference.
"Steven Gerrard has not changed, he is probably fitter now than he was before, and we have all seen him charging forward - he did that against Wolves at Anfield (last month).
"The principles are still there and those are the beliefs of the club, not just one person.
"The individuals that play in the team give the team its characteristics.
"Some people will do things differently and better than others but if they all chip in they complement each other.
"I don't think anyone in the squad of players cannot play alongside Steven Gerrard and have the same philosophy and understanding they had before.
"We understand what Steven can do and he understands what the players can do. They haven't played together a great deal but they have trained together a lot."