Last season, Sir Alex Ferguson questioned how much room there was for Chelsea’s team to improve, given they hadn’t dipped in to the transfer market and their best players were all a year old. Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris claimed Ferguson was “talking out of his arse” whilst Tiny Tears reckoned it was United who had peaked, not Chelsea.

A year later, United won the league before the last game of the season, whilst Chelsea claimed fewer points than the season before and dropped down to third in the league. Liverpool finished second and a lot of emphasis has been put on the team for them to stick together and trust Rafael FSW Benitez to improve the squad.

“I worry about losing my team-mates but if we can keep our best players and bring in some more, we’ll be even stronger for next season. We just need to keep our best players,” Torres said last month.

“It would be a bad piece of work if Xabi left,” Torres said last week. “It would be a serious loss for Liverpool if he left this summer.”

With Alonso’s transfer fee with Real Madrid agreed, the manager has made another prediction for the coming season and this year reckons a rejuvenated Chelsea, under new manager Ancelotti, pose a greater threat than the dippers.

“I don’t know if it will make a big difference to Liverpool, Alonso going,” said Ferguson. “He is a good player, but I’m not sure if losing him will affect them. The thrust of the Liverpool team is really all about Gerrard and Torres. If they stay fit, it improves Liverpool’s chances. But Liverpool have just had probably their best season for 20 years, finished up with 86 points, and still finished four adrift. It will be hard for them to match that, let alone improve. Other teams will read Liverpool better.”

Joe Cole and Michael Essien will be around this season, as will the Premiership’s top scorer, Nicolas Anelka. With a four times European Cup winning manager in charge instead of a guy who won the World Cup with one of the greatest sides ever, Fergie rates their chances.

“It has to be Chelsea as the main threat,” said Ferguson. “Ancelotti will change the way Chelsea play. They will play the Milan way. It brought him two European Cups – it should have been three, because they should never have lost to Liverpool. So why should he change? There is plenty of flexibility in what he’s got and he should get goals from Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka.”