‘There’s a difference this year’ says Reds skipper
Steven Gerrard believes Liverpool FC have the belief to capitalise on a period of change at Manchester United by closing the gap on their bitter North West rivals.
United head to Anfield on Sunday afternoon for their blockbusting Premier League showdown without Sir Alex Ferguson in the dugout for the first time since February 1986.
Liverpool maintained their 100 per cent start to the season with a hard-earned Capital One Cup victory at home to League One side Notts County in midweek.
And Gerrard is confident Brendan Rodgers’ new-look side – which he hopes will be augmented by further new faces before Monday’s transfer deadline – are in a better position to challenge United’s supremacy.
“That’s something we have been trying to do for a long time,” said the Liverpool skipper. “Not just with changes in the summer. For a long time, the gap between ourselves and United, Chelsea and now Manchester City has been too big.
“Each year we have been trying to close that gap, so really this season isn’t any different in that respect.
“But it does feel slightly different this year. The team spirit is really good and there is a belief within the squad.
“The changes the manager has made during the summer are really positive and hopefully there are still one or two more players to come in.”
While new United manager David Moyes saw his side held at home by Chelsea on Monday, Liverpool opened the Premier League campaign with successive victories for only the third time since 1994.
Rodgers’ men were unfortunate to lose 2-1 when they last entertained United 11 months ago, and Gerrard has warned the Anfield side are primed to go on the offensive.
“United blew Swansea away (in their first game) and played some good stuff on the counter- attack, but against Chelsea on Monday both teams really cancelled each other out,” said the 33-year-old.
“We know it’s going to be a very tough match. I think they’ll come here and probably look to play on the counter-attack again, but we’re at home and have got to take the game to them.
“Our tails are up. We have won three games in a row, even if with the third one we did it the difficult way.
“Confidence is still high, even if the injury situation is not ideal going into such a big game. But we have got a squad that can cope.
“For me, United and Everton are still the big two games of the season.”
Rodgers could be without Kolo Toure (groin) and Joe Allen (hamstring) after the pair hobbled off on Tuesday.
The manager was on hand to watch Luis Suarez score in a 2-2 draw with Port Vale in a behind-closed-doors friendly at Melwood yesterday.
Suarez still has three games to serve of his 10-match ban for biting Branislav Ivanovic.
Meanwhile, Gerrard believes Raheem Sterling will benefit from his recall to the England squad.
Sterling was named in Roy Hodgson’s party for next month’s World Cup qualifying double header against Moldova and Ukraine.
And Gerrard added: “Raheem has looked really sharp and lively right the way through pre-season.
“He hasn’t started a Premier League game yet, but there are plenty of games throughout the season where he can prove he is international class.
“But he is still very young, he’s a baby in terms of his football development and has a lot to learn. But the experience of being in and around the full England squad will help him.”