Sir Alex Ferguson has cranked up the pressure on Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez by declaring Chelsea to be the biggest threat to Manchester United's dream of an unprecedented fourth consecutive Premier League title.
Big things are expected of Liverpool this term after their most consistent top-flight campaign since 1990.
But Ferguson told The Sun: "Liverpool had probably their best season for 20 years and still finished four points adrift. It will be hard for them to match last season, let alone improve on it. Other teams will know more about them, so it has to be Chelsea as the main threat."
Benitez is bound to bristle at such comments, although with Xabi Alonso about to join Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka and Karim Benzema at Real Madrid, it is difficult to see how a Liverpool side whose focus continues to be the axis of Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard can get better.
The arrival of Carlo Ancelotti also brings an unknown dimension to Chelsea, although Ferguson believes the Italian's past record makes him an opponent to be respected.
"Ancelotti will play the Milan way," said Ferguson.
"It brought him two European Cups - it should have been three because they should never have lost to Liverpool, so why should he change?"
That put-down of Benitez's proudest moment as Liverpool manager from Istanbul in 2005 will not endear him to the Anfield club either.
However, United have their own worries at present, namely the broken fingers Edwin van der Sar suffered during the penalty shoot-out defeat to Bayern Munich in last week's Audi Cup that will keep him out for eight weeks.
The 38-year-old's injury turns the spotlight firmly onto Ben Foster, whose own well-chronicled fitness problems have been a consistent handicap in his bid to establish himself as United's number one.
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