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The Manchester United manager stoked the fires ahead of Sunday's Old Trafford clash by insisting he had no idea how far off the title pace his side's traditional rivals had fallen

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has taunted Liverpool ahead of Sunday's Old Trafford showdown by admitting he no longer takes notice of where the Merseysiders sit in the Premier League table.

Though the fixture retains its status the one the most iconic rivalries in world football, once against it will have little direct influence on the destination of the title, with Brendan Rodgers' side some 21 points adrift of the league leaders.

While United continue to fight it out for top domestic billing with Manchester City and look forward to a glamour European tie against Real Madrid next month, Liverpool must console themselves with Europa League football as Rodgers sets about a sizeable rebuilding job.

When it was pointed out to him that Liverpool were currently residing in eighth place Ferguson revealed his "surprise" and added: "I never even thought about that until it was mentioned on the television. I don't really look at that. I look at that mob [Manchester City] that's behind us, the team that's directly behind us. Their programme, who they've got next. I do that all the time."

By contrast, Ferguson needed little reminding, however, that Liverpool's failure to add to their 18 league titles had now stretched into a 23rd year: "Oh yes, I've been dreaming about it," he joked.

Liverpool and Rodgers face an enormous task to redress the balance, one made all the more complicated by their continued absence – which currently stands at three seasons - from Europe's elite competition.

"If we weren't in the Champions League it would be a disaster and that probably applies to other big clubs," Ferguson added.

Though the destination of the title is now more likely to hinge on the outcome of United's meeting with City later this season, Ferguson still regards the clash with Liverpool as the one that still matters most in a one off context.

He said: "I know City represent a different outlook in the last five years but Liverpool were always the one and nothing will change. It's not about the position in the league."

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