Wayne Rooney believes Liverpool will be genuine challengers this season and says he aspires to reach Lionel Messi’s level.
Liverpool have not won the league since 1990, the return of Kenny Dalglish and a number of new arrivals over the summer have led to a renewed optimism around Anfield.
Rooney has little doubt that Manchester United will be battling it out for the title, but he believes any one of Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal or Manchester City could be their main rivals.
“Liverpool will challengethis time,” Rooney said. “They’ve made some really good signings under Kenny Dalglish, British players, and I’m sure they will try harder than they’ve ever done, fighting to be up there.
“They will think they have a chance of winning the title. The main threat is going to be from Chelsea, Liverpool , Arsenal and Manchester City. One of them, plus us, will be fighting for the title.”
Rooney endured a torrid time at the start of last season, going into the 2010-11 campaign on the back of a dismal World Cup and suffering fitness problems.
He will be more optimistic this time around, after finishing the season in impressive form and having scored a hat-trick in this week’s pre-season friendly against Seattle Sounders, but he says he always feels the need for improvement.
“I’m a player who wants to do well all the time and I know I can always improve, so if I keep working and practicing, hopefully I can do that. I don’t really set targets but it would be nice if I can get through the season injury-free. That would be a big boost for me.
“I hope that I’m going to get better and better. I work and practise hard every day to try to achieve that so if I do that it’ll be great for me and the club.”
The form of Lionel Messi, inspirational in the Champions League final victory over United in May, has set a new benchmark in the modern game.
“Messi is a great player and rightly World Player of the Year,” he said. “I think, not just for me, but for every footballer out there, that’s the target you want to try to get to and hopefully I can do that.
“Barcelona have their style of play and we play differently – not everyone can play the way they do. They have their identity and we have our own. Full credit to them, they were a much better team than us on the day and deserved the win, but we’re looking forward to the new season now, trying to put that behind us and concentrating on what’s ahead.
“I think you have to put it behind you. I still think it was a great achievement by us to get to the final. Obviously you want to win, but they were better than us so you have to hold your hands up to that. It’s always disappointing when you lose in any competition. We just want to do our best this season, try to retain the title and go that one step further in the Champions League.”