Wayne Rooney has stoked the fires ahead of Saturday's showdown with Liverpool by claiming a Manchester United victory would send Rafael Benitez's side crashing out of the title race.
The lunchtime Old Trafford clash certainly appears a game the Merseyside club have to win if they are to have a chance of staying in touch with United over the closing stretch of the season. Sir Alex Ferguson's side currently hold a seven-point cushion over Chelsea and Liverpool, and they have the added bonus of a match in hand on their nearest rivals.
United striker and former Evertonian Rooney summed up the situation as he said: "They know, in coming to Old Trafford, it's going to be a difficult game for them. They also know they need the three points and I'm sure they'll be up for it - we certainly will be. But I think, if we beat them, it will probably end their chances of winning the league."
Both teams go into the mouthwatering encounter on the back of fine wins in the Champions League, even if United were not firing on all cylinders in beating Inter Milan 2-0 on Wednesday.
As for Liverpool, they demolished Real Madrid 4-0 at Anfield and must now be in the mood to clinch a victory over United that would keep them in the title hunt.
While appreciating Liverpool would be almost out of the picture if United did triumph, centre-back Rio Ferdinand is wise enough to know the fat lady would not quite be singing just yet.
"They've had a good week, getting a great result against Real Madrid," remarked Ferdinand on Liverpool's superb effort against the Spanish champions.
"We're in for a tough game with a great atmosphere, a different entity altogether (compared to Inter), and one we can't wait for.
"Could it end their title chances? Possibly, yeah. But we still have games after that to win. It's the same at this stage of the season all the time.
"People say, 'If you win this game, you win the league', but it just continues until it's mathematically over and one team wins it, and hopefully that will be us."
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