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Jan 13, 2013

Rodgers: We matched United for quality

Brendan Rodgers believes the major difference between Manchester United and Liverpool is in the Premier League leaders' greater strength in depth.

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United won 2-1 against Liverpool at Old Trafford to leave Rodgers' side 24 points behind them but the Northern Irishman said the gap between the two starting line-ups is much smaller than that.

Rodgers is optimistic that Liverpool can turn themselves into challengers but says they have to bring in more high-class players in the next few transfer windows.

He said: "We're 24 points behind United - but we're not 24 points behind [in terms of] quality. The points difference is due to the squad. The depth in the squads is the difference for us.

"Once we close the gap in the squad over these coming windows, I've got great faith we'll be able to challenge. I've seen enough hope in these opening months to suggest we will do that - and today was another example of it."

Rodgers was able to bring Liverpool's goalscorer Daniel Sturridge, a recent £12 million signing from Chelsea, and fit-again Fabio Borini off the bench as, for the first time in three months, he had striking substitutes available.

And including Luis Suarez, it gave Liverpool three out-and-out forwards on the pitch as they chased a point.

Rodgers added: "It's the first time this season we've had our goal scorers on the field. Borini was bright when he came on and moved inside well. It gives us great hope."

The Liverpool manager admits he faces a challenge to fit all three into the same team but believes their versatility will make his task easier.

He explained: "What we've got in those players is that they're all flexible. Fabio can play through the middle or off the side. We've seen Suarez playing central all season, but he's played off the side during his career, and likewise Daniel.

"It's about getting good players onto the field who can fit into the model and the structure. The shape of the team you shouldn't see so much when you've got the ball - it's more when you haven't got it."

Meanwhile, Rodgers' United counterpart claimed it was his side's best performance "for a long time".

"This was as good a performance as we've had for a long time," Sir Alex Ferguson said. "All in all, it was an engrossing game as we expected in a Manchester United-Liverpool match.

"It's full of emotion, intensity and it's great to win them. It was a magnificent performance in the first half, as well as we've played for a long time. It was hard work after they scored and I'm just glad we won the match. Winning is important - it doesn't matter what league position we're in.

"It was a great build-up to the first goal, some terrific football and a great finish from Robin. I thought Welbeck and Van Persie gave them a really difficult time, particularly in the first half.

"I've said many times it's a fantastic challenge between the two most successful teams in the country. I think those three points today are very, very important ones.

"Liverpool were inspired by their goal, it got their fans going, and they made a real fist of it for the final 25 minutes. When you play Liverpool, you've got to be on your best form to win, and I thought this was our best form."

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