Rio Ferdinand has said that Manchester United have now gone past Liverpool - despite what "excuses" the Reds have for their struggles last season.
The former Man United defender was asked to assess the progress Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side have made over the last year - and was quick to point out that, having been 33 points behind Liverpool the previous season, United had now overtaken their rivals once again. Those are the cold facts, as he puts it.
Despite the Europa League final loss to Villarreal, Ferdinand was happy with the season, though admitted catching Pep Guardiola's Manchester City was a huge task.
"In the league we've got what we wanted, which was an improvement," Ferdinand told Goal. "I think Man United at the end of last season [2019/20] finished 30-odd points behind Liverpool.
"Liverpool are now behind us and they'll have their excuses and reasons why but the cold facts are that we have gained that much ground on them that we've gone past them this season.
"That shows vast improvement and we're second in the league. By no means are we the finished article but I think at the beginning of the season if you'd said you'd finish second in the league from where we were I think they'd have snapped your hand off."
With Man United were challenging for top spot at times during the season, it is easy to forget that third or fourth was looking a likely finish at the start of the season, given the dominance of Liverpool and Man City in recent years.
So Ferdinand is correct in that second is an impressive Premier League performance. However they often say the hardest position to climb in the table is going from second to first - and Ferdinand explained where United needed to recruit this summer to have a chance of catching City next season.
"They need a centre-back, a right winger and maybe even a centre-forward," he said. Prompted by Goal on whether Harry Kane should be that target man, Rio replied that he felt defensive improvement had to be priority.
It [signing Kane] would be nice, wouldn't it?" Ferdinand replied. "But my first position to buy would be centre-back."
The club have been linked with a variety of central defenders, primarily France international Raphael Varane who Real Madrid are apparently willing to sell rather than let him walk away for free in 2022.
However whatever happens this summer, Ferdinand clearly believes that Solskjaer's side are looking up at Man City and not down to worry about Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool.
All imagery: PA Images
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