Jordan Henderson hasn't sensed any let-up in Liverpool's focus as they prepare to go again in the Premier League today.
The Reds had opened up a 14-point lead at the summit of the table heading into the latest round of fixtures, which see Manchester United visit Anfield later this afternoon.
Henderson has long been aware of the historic rivalry between the clubs, but insists the concentration of Jürgen Klopp’s side hasn’t been affected by external talk of their title challenge or the clash with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men.
In his column in the official matchday programme, the captain writes: “Liverpool versus Manchester United is the sort of fixture that, if you weren’t directly involved in it like we are, you’d still make sure you planned your day around being able to watch.
“There hasn’t been a period in my lifetime, regardless of how either club was doing at the time, where this wasn’t one of the standout games of the season. It’s the sort of match that captures the imagination of football supporters up and down the country, regardless of club loyalty, because it’s such a big rivalry.
“As Liverpool players we’re often asked where does this game rank compared with the Merseyside derby? Do we see it as bigger or more important? I don’t know for certain, but I’d imagine it’s the same for Man Utd with the Manchester derby.
“The answer is easy really. It’s as big and it’s as important, but it’s different.
“As a professional I‘ve been taught to respect every opponent. As a Liverpool player you know you have to respect the importance of this match in particular and a big part of that is recognising the strength of United as a club and as a team.
“I’ve never liked the idea of any other club being a benchmark for us. We should never define ourselves by what others have done. For me, Liverpool’s benchmark is Liverpool. We don’t need anyone else’s achievements to drive us on.
“I want to be successful for Liverpool because of what it means to our fans. Not because it means we can claim we’ve outdone someone else, no matter how big the rivalry.
“One of this team’s biggest strengths is that we set our own standards and our own expectations. We don’t need external motivation – it’s within us. The only outcome we ever look ahead to is trying to win the next game. The only situation we care about being 'the best' in is the match we’re playing in.
“When the gaffer says we don’t talk about records in our dressing room he’s spot on. No-one here is interested in anything other than winning the next match – simple as. Why? Because, in the here and now, records are not important. The time for reflection will come later.
“We manage to keep this tunnel vision because we have great respect for every team we face and that’s never been more relevant than when we play Manchester United.
“I’ve lost count of the amount of games we’ve gone into with people drawing conclusions before the team bus has pulled up at the ground, let alone the game itself has started. The second we let any of that outside noise impact us, we won’t perform to the levels needed to maintain or exceed what we’re currently doing.
“United are a world-class team with unreal players. I’ve played with a number of them for England. They’re as good as anything out there. To name just two games, we’ve seen away at Chelsea in the Carabao Cup, and at Manchester City in the Premier League, what they are capable of.
“If we don’t focus entirely on putting all we have into getting the best result we can today, we’ll get punished.”
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