Fergie tips Reds to challenge
Alex Ferguson is expecting Liverpool to be heavily involved in an ever greater scrap at the top of the Premier League next season.
With Kenny Dalglish now confirmed on a three-year contract, Ferguson is expecting there to be greater stability at Anfield, and with that, some Liverpool involvement in what he feels will be a furious scrap for honours.
"Liverpool will be galvanised next season I am sure of that," said the United chief. "Kenny has signed a three-year contract that settles the club down and there will be plans.
"It just makes it more interesting next year. It has become tighter and tighter.
"We have spoken for years about the big four but teams like Tottenham have not got back into the Champions League this year and they have had a fantastic season.
"It is going to be really difficult next year."
Not that Ferguson could ever feel comfortable being told he has had a "fantastic season" when there is no silverware to show for it.
Since he started collecting trophies with United in 1990, it has not happened often.
But on the four occasions when Ferguson has finished empty-handed, there has been little solace.
"Winning trophies is the most important thing," he said.
There will be particular poignancy about the latest addition to United's trophy cabinet because, in the process, it will "knock Liverpool off their perch" as Ferguson always promised to do.
He never actually imagined it would happen until two years ago when, basking in championship number 18, he declared it was only a matter of time before the record fell.
"I knew it would happen at some point because of the history of the club," he said.
"There is a good structure here. We still produce young players really well and our scouting is good in terms of getting young players into the club at the right time.
"It would have happened anyway whether that was this year, next year or in 10 years' time. The history and capability of the club would always have given us a chance."
Yet, as Ferguson is fond of saying, England has "a tough league".
There is a strong argument for believing that is has been especially tough for the bigger teams this year because they have, for the most part, been substandard.
However, should United go on to beat Barcelona in the Champions League final on May 28, can that debate really be sustained?
Ferguson is certain the competition is getting fiercer than it has ever been, born of the desperate need of the Premier League's lesser lights to retain their status.
In an era when 90 points has become the watermark for championship success, United could win it this term without even hitting 80.
And Ferguson feels it will be a while before the 90 mark is threatened again.
"It is going to be very difficult to get 90 points again because of the improvement of teams in the middle and towards the bottom of the Premier League," he said.
"There has been an increase in desire from teams in those positions because the only place you can ever make money in English football is the Premier League."
Once the title is secured, Ferguson will look to rest his key men for the final game against Blackpool, and then give them a run-out in Gary Neville's testimonial 48 hours later.
Javier Hernandez will be looking forward to a longer rest than that, having been in action for virtually 12 months solid.
The Mexican still has his Gold Cup commitments to come, which is why Ferguson may excuse him from United's pre-season tour of North America, having initially suggested he would be on it.
"Once he plays in the Gold Cup, Javier will be given a proper rest and we will take it up from there," said Ferguson.
"His performances in training and in games suggests there's no tiredness at all but we will keep monitoring that.
"If we get the result he will get the rest. If we don't then he will play next Sunday."