From The Daily Mail
Sir Alex Ferguson is prone to the odd error when he attempts to roll out football statistics these days, but the Manchester United manager may like to consider the following as he digests a suggestion from Rafael Benitez that his Liverpool side are now a match for the Barclays Premier League champions.
Since Benitez assumed control at Anfield in the summer of 2004, United have earned 52 more League points than their great rivals, have won 19 more Premier League games and scored 53 more goals.
Against this background, it is perhaps understandable that Ferguson will sleep soundly overnight as he awaits the arrival of Liverpool at Old Trafford tomorrow.
Games between these teams are rarely one-sided but given Benitez's dreadful domestic record against his club's three main rivals, it was surprising to hear him speak so boldly in the run-up to the game.
Liverpool may have the European Cups but United have their greatest foes in an unforgiving stranglehold when it comes to the Barclays Premier League.
Ferguson spoke yesterday of the remaining weeks of the title race, yet he did not refer to Liverpool once. Just like last season, Benitez's race was run a long time ago and that continues to cut genuine Scousers to the core.
'They always tell you it's the computer that arranges this weekend, but you have to think it is planned,' said Ferguson, in reference to United and Liverpool meeting the same day as Chelsea and Arsenal.
'We are first on the menu (1.30pm kick-off). We hope we win and then we can sit and wonder about what's the best result in the other match. The three of us involved in this have difficult games. No one can say they are certain to win it.'
The manner in which Liverpool have recovered from their FA Cup humbling by Barnsley to win five League games on the bounce and eliminate Inter Milan from the Champions League is admirable.
Nevertheless, it is reminiscent of the golfer who scores five birdies on the back nine of a major championship having already fallen too far behind Tiger Woods for it to matter. Last year was much the same.
Between mid-November 2006 and late April 2007, Liverpool lost just three of 23 League games. The problem was that the title was out of reach by the time that run started.
United, meanwhile, are classic front-runners, modern experts in exerting pressure on opponents early in the season and waiting to see if others can cope.
This time round, Chelsea have managed to stay in touch while Arsenal have struggled lately. Liverpool have not been in the race since United beat them at Anfield in December.
'I am very pleased,' said Ferguson. 'We have retained the consistency of last season, challenged for the League again, we are in the quarter-finals of the European Cup. The signs have been good.'
Quite why Liverpool have failed to again match United — and indeed Arsenal and Chelsea — over the course of the season is difficult to fathom, given the obvious quality in Benitez's squad.
The Liverpool coach has contributed to his own downfall by taking until late winter to determine his best team and the Spaniard must also worry about the extent to which he now relies on Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres.
At United, Cristiano Ronaldo has been terrific but Ferguson does not need the young winger to quite the same degree as Benitez needs his two cornerstones.
Gerrard and Torres have been fundamental to Liverpool's recent recovery to the extent that should one of them miss tomorrow's game for whatever reason, it would be almost impossible to see the visitors taking anything.
As it stands, the afternoon is set up for a cracking contest. Liverpool have put spanners in the works of United's title challenges before, of course, most memorably when Ian Rush and Mark Walters scored against them at Anfield in 1992 to hand the championship to Leeds.
They would love to do so again and, although it would represent small consolation for another disappointing season, it could happen.
If, as expected, Rio Ferdinand does not recover from a back injury, Torres will relish the opportunity to harass the less capable Wes Brown, and Gerrard's form is good enough to erase memories of being given the runaround by Brazilian Anderson last December.
United, though, are a confident group and have the look of a side easing their way to another title. Certainly, recent history favours them. In Benitez's time, Liverpool have lost six of their seven League games against United.
And it gets worse. The scorer of Liverpool's only goal during that dismal run? United defender John O'Shea