Liverpool target win over Manchester United
Benitez oversaw his first win at Old Trafford last season
Rafael Benitez says picking up points rather than stopping Manchester United’s quest for a 19th league title is his goal ahead of Sunday’s meeting.
Liverpool are locked with United on 18 titles apiece but Sir Alex Ferguson’s side hope to overtake them this season.
“For all our fans it would be really good to stop United,” said Liverpool’s boss, whose side will be seeking a fourth win in a row over their rivals.
“But we need to win because we want to be in the top four.”
Liverpool, who won their last league title in 1990, go into the match at Old Trafford four points behind fourth-placed Tottenham.
That Liverpool’s ambitions this term have been limited to a scrap for the fourth Champions League place and possible Europa League glory sits in stark contrast to United’s season.
United, who fell back to second in the Premier League after Arsenal beat West Ham on Saturday, can return to the top of the table if they win.
But it is not simply the desire to win a record-breaking 19th title overall and fourth on the trot that is motivating Manchester United’s players ahead of the clash against Liverpool at Old Trafford.
“Nineteen titles is a motivation,” said United midfielder Darren Fletcher. “The fans are desperate for it. The club want to be the club with the most titles in English football.
“But there are a lot of motivations. As players we want that Premier League for the fourth time in a row. Then there are the defeats we had against them, both last season and this.
“Even more important, this game is worth another three points and that is what we will be looking for.”
United will see Ryan Giggs return to the fray after a seven-game absence following the broken arm he suffered at Aston Villa last month, while Nemanja Vidic looks set to partner Rio Ferdinand in central defence.
Vidic will no doubt hope to add to the three successive clean sheets the pair have helped United keep recently – rather than the three red cards on the trot he has received against Liverpool.
That entire trio of matches have been lost, the corresponding fixture last season by an astonishing 4-1 scoreline, but Benitez does not think those results will have much bearing at Old Trafford.
“I don’t think they will be thinking too much about the past,” he said. “Last year was a very important and amazing game for us.
“It was the first victory there for me but it is another year and another challenge and we have to concentrate on this game.”
Benitez will give a late fitness test to midfielder Alberto Aquilani after the Italian missed the Europa League victory over Lille with a sickness bug, while striker Fernando Torres is back on form after an injury-hit season.
The Spanish international, who has just celebrated his 26th birthday, now has 17 goals in 27 appearances and has scored in his last two matches against United.
“In terms of the week, we’ve had two good wins and people have more confidence so we will move forward and be ready for the next game,” said Benitez.
“If we stick together we can beat anyone. Old Trafford will be difficult but we will try. If we can work like we did against Lille and we have a game plan it will be the small details that make the difference.”
Scotland international Fletcher, meanwhile, remains wary of the threat Liverpool pose even if they are out of the title chase.
“Liverpool have struggled for a consistent team this season, which is maybe why they have not challenged like they did last year,” said Fletcher.
“But they are still battling for fourth place and they are getting their players fit now so they will be dangerous opposition.
“They managed to beat us on the last three times we have met so we need to be very wary. We know we have to be 100 per cent. If we are not we could suffer the same fate as last season.”