Sir Alex Ferguson is convinced the battle to finish runners-up to rampant Premiership leaders Chelsea will go right down to the wire.
While the squabble over who follows Jose Mourinho's men over the line could be seen as slightly embarrassing for clubs the size of Manchester United and Liverpool, the added prize money and automatic entry into next season's Champions League could be key financial factors in putting a more sustained challenge together next term.
By collecting just five points from their last four games, United have handed the initiative to the Anfield men, who head to Old Trafford just a point adrift but with two crucial games in hand.
Defeat therefore is not an option for Ferguson's team - not that it ever is anyway when the five-times European Cup winners come rumbling up the East Lancs Road.
'It is looking like we are going for second spot now but it will be close because Liverpool are in a good streak of form,' said Ferguson.
'Their defensive record may not be as good as Chelsea's but they are quite sound at the back and the other thing that has helped Rafael Benitez this season is a clean bill of health.
'Last year he had quite a few injuries and, without question, it does have an impact.'
Twelve months ago, there were some questioning whether Benitez would still be in charge of Liverpool by now.
Hopelessly inconsistent on the domestic front and heavily criticised after tumbling out of the FA Cup at Burnley having fielded a virtual reserve side, Benitez was getting it in the neck from all sides.
But the amazing Champions League triumph in Istanbul silenced all the doubters and ensured the Spaniard will now get the time to re-establish Liverpool as a major force once more.
It may be approaching 16 years since the Merseyside giants last lifted the title but Ferguson is expecting a more sustained challenge over the years ahead.
'The one thing Rafa will get at Liverpool is time,' said Ferguson.
'It is difficult to say whether they are back on our shoulder again but you do expect Liverpool to be challenging at the top, along with Arsenal and Chelsea and I see no reason why that will stop.'
Given he would break Malcolm Glazer's piggy bank to sign Steven Gerrard given even the merest indication he would be willing to cross the great divide which splits the two clubs, it is no wonder Ferguson picks out the Liverpool skipper as the heartbeat of the visitors' line-up.
With Roy Keane now at Celtic and Paul Scholes seeking a second opinion on the blurred vision he initially suffered at Birmingham last month, Ferguson knows United's midfield could struggle to cope.
Alan Smith could be available again after an ankle problem and his tenacity will be vital following a poor showing by Darren Fletcher and John O'Shea in last weekend's miserable Manchester derby.
There will be no debut for Nemanja Vidic but Ferguson is set to stick with his other recent arrival, Patrice Evra, who was taken off at half-time at Eastlands after being comprehensively outplayed by Trevor Sinclair.
'Patrice will start,' said Ferguson.
'It is not a risk,' he added. 'He got an eye injury last week but because we were already 2-0 down, we thought it was better to get him off at half-time rather than give him another five or 10 minutes just in case the problem went away.
'In fact, it might not have been a bad thing to have him on the bench because at least he got to watch the remainder of the game and see what Premiership football is all about.'
With Cristiano Ronaldo suspended, the loss of Park Ji-Sung is also being keenly felt.
The Korean has been missing with a knee problem since pulling out of the first FA Cup tie with Burton after aggravating an initial injury in the pre-match warm-up.
But it appears his absence will not be a long one as Ferguson feels he could be available for the Premiership trip to Blackburn on February 1.
'It is a small medial ligament strain,' said the United chief. 'He is back running now and we will get him on football work next week. He will be back in about 10 days time.'