Dalglish: Beating United not the priority
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish insists helping prevent Manchester United securing a record-breaking 19th championship is less important than restoring the fortunes of his own club. However, he would take great satisfaction should they put a dent in the Red Devils' pursuit of the title which would take them clear of their Merseyside rivals' tally.
Dalglish was the manager to bring the last of their 18 league championships - then Division One - to Anfield in 1990. In the intervening years United have assumed the dominance previously enjoyed by the Reds in the previous two decades and such is the state of things it seems Sir Alex Ferguson is certain to reach the landmark before his fellow Scot.
The teams meet for the third time this season at Anfield on Sunday with Liverpool having lost both previous encounters, in the league and FA Cup, by the odd goal at Old Trafford. But Dalglish has turned things around dramatically since taking over on 9 January, coincidentally against United in the cup, and last weekend's defeat at West Ham was their first in eight matches.
The visit of United, who lost at Chelsea in midweek, presents a considerable challenge but Dalglish is not interested on what their arch-rivals are doing. "We want to help ourselves first. If we help ourselves and it hinders somebody else then that's not our problem, that's theirs," said the Scot, who turns 60 tomorrow. "As we always say, you can control an awful lot of your own destiny and not someone else's.
"If we concentrate on ourselves and prepare as well as we can, then whatever eventualities come from that, fine. If we get a result on Sunday it is more helpful to us than it is harmful to them. It never does anyone any harm to win a game. Obviously the three points would be very welcome. What they would bring for ourselves and the future, we just don't know."
When Dalglish shocked fans by walking out of Liverpool in 1991 he could not have imagined the title drought which would follow. He, of course, won the Premier League when he returned to management with Blackburn but all the time United were gradually chipping away at Liverpool's record haul of 18.
"I never considered they would catch us," added Dalglish. "I was concentrating on what I was supposed to do and that was to manage Blackburn Rovers. You never look too far ahead and I wasn't doing that then.
"To their credit they have won a fantastic amount of championships and it shows how successful they have been. I had my own competition with Manchester United when I was at Blackburn and then Newcastle. I never had any feelings."
It is obviously painful to Dalglish that the club where he reigned so gloriously as a player and manager has struggled to compete on a consistent basis in the league. However, he did point to other areas where Liverpool still held the advantage over their north-west rivals.
"You take greater satisfaction from when your own team is successful and they've been more successful than Liverpool over the past 20 years," he admitted. "But at the end of the day we've still got bits we can hang on to. We've still won five European Cups."
Much has been made of Dalglish's relationship with Ferguson and although the pair could never be described as the best of friends the Liverpool boss cannot deny the success his fellow Scot has enjoyed.
"I've never had a problem with Fergie. I've got respect for the job he has done as a manager," said the Reds boss. "I've known him for a long, long time. It must be 40 years or so since I first came across him. I don't have a problem."