While Manchester United were preparing for the Champions League final, Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez was already planning to overthrow the Premier League champions next season.
Benitez's side finished 11 points behind United but the Spaniard is convinced that gap can be overhauled if the Reds come out on top in the direct confrontations with their bitter rivals.
Liverpool have a woeful recent record against Sir Alex Ferguson's team, losing both meetings this term and winning only one of their last nine meetings. In Benitez's four seasons at Anfield, Liverpool have lost seven of their league clashes, with a 0-0 draw their only point in that time.
Ferguson made it his publicly stated aim to “knock Liverpool off their perch” when he arrived at the club in 1986. There can be no doubt he has acheived that goal and Benitez knows it is essential to get the better of United if his team are to end their 18-year wait to win the title.
“If you beat Manchester United once it results in a six-point swing either way and that can be the difference,” he told Liverpool's official magazine.
“Clearly, just one team can win the league, so it doesn't really matter if you are three, six, nine or 11 points behind as we are this season.
“It is not a massive difference. It may just come down to one game over the course of a season.
“The key for me is knowing there is a difference between us and the three teams above us and that we must now reduce this gap.
“It was not massive this season. We came closer than last season. Hopefully next season we will be closer again, maybe even on top of them.”
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has already told Benitez he needs to spend big money in the close-season if the Reds are to become serious title challengers.
Benitez has so far signed only Swiss right-back Philipp Degen from Borussia Dortmund on a free transfer, but he insists he will keep trying to improve the squad.
Spain midfielder Xabi Alonso could be sold to Juventus and Steve Finnan to Fulhanm as Benitez looks to finance new signings. Aston Villa's Gareth Barry is high on his wanted list and could join in a deal that would see Scott Carson move to Villa.
Benitez is also trying to land Bordeaux's veteran goalkeeper Ulrich Rame, with the Charles Itandje moving in the opposite direction.
“This club is all about winning things so we are disappointed not to have picked up any trophies this season,” Benitez added,
“But we will be hungrier next season. Clearly, we are winners and want to win silverware every year.
“We have not done that for two seasons so we will be looking to improve again in order to try and deliver something for our supporters next time.”
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