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Manchester, United Kingdom – Robin van Persie has urged his Manchester United team-mates not to get carried away by their seven-point lead at the top of the Premier League ahead of Sunday's clash with Liverpool.
United face their old enemies at Old Trafford and victory will put them 10 points clear of second-place Manchester City, who do not play at Arsenal until later in the day.
The Dutchman, who has netted 16 league goals this term after a £24 million ($38.7 million, 29.1 million euros) close-season move from Arsenal, wants his side to maintain focus.
“It is only seven points, you have to look at it game by game. We still have to go through the entire second half of the league and almost play everyone one more time,” said van Persie.
“Nothing is decided. It will be tough and it will be hard. This weekend we have Liverpool and it's a massive game for us.”
Van Persie has also warned against complacency when United meet Brendan Rodgers' side, who trail the leaders by 21 points after coming through a difficult start to their campaign.
“We have to look at the three points and it's a bit like a derby, the teams being so close to each other,” said van Persie, who netted in injury time to earn United a 2-2 draw at West Ham United in the FA Cup last weekend.
“There is so much history between them and there have been some great games over the years, going back a long way. They are a great team and, on their day, they can make it a really hard game for us.”
United defender Rio Ferdinand is also relishing the clash with United's arch rivals.
“I would say it is the fixture we look forward to first,” he said.
“The rivalry runs deep. Liverpool have not been up there fighting for the championship, but the fans and the players are well versed in what this means to us as a club.
“I always enjoy playing against Liverpool, either at Anfield or Old Trafford. Hopefully this is another good, exciting and winning occasion for us.
“It is special. Whilst I have been here, there have been loads of great moments. You just want to add your name and be a part of a team that adds to that long list of events that have gone on.”
Alex Ferguson has revealed Nani and Anderson will return to United's squad for Sunday's game, but the United manager says Wayne Rooney will not be ready despite returning to training on Friday.
Liverpool manager Rodgers is hoping his side can take advantage of United's leaky defence on Sunday as the Reds look to claim just their second win at Old Trafford in seven years.
United have conceded 28 goals so far in the Premier League – the most out of the top 10 teams in the division – but have the best goal difference thanks to their prolific strike-force.
“They will probably be disappointed with the number of goals they have conceded this season and as we create a lot of opportunities, we are hoping we can go and take a result,” said Rodgers.
Since losing 3-1 at Stoke City on December 26, Liverpool have won three consecutive games, culminating in last weekend's 2-1 win at fifth-tier minnows Mansfield Town in the FA Cup.
With a hostile atmosphere sure to await Liverpool at Old Trafford, Rodgers has urged his players not to let themselves down.
“It's a very proud club. This is a group of proud players,” he said.
“You're defending more than just the club in this game – this is a city that is very passionate.
“It's a football game and we are high in confidence and we go into the game in a good moment, having won seven of our last nine games. We have good confidence and belief.” – Sapa-AFP