Dimitar Berbatov, Robbie Keane Draw Looks from Manchester United, Liverpool

Tim AndersonCorrespondent IJuly 18, 2008

The Premiership bared its teeth on Friday when Tottenham Hotspur officially complained to the FA over the way both Manchester United and Liverpool have been openly recruiting their star strikers Dimitar Berbatov and Robbie Keane.


Open war has been simmering under the transfer market this year between the Premier league powers, but now it is finally boiling over. Specifically, the race is on for the title of most successful league club in English football history.


Liverpool, with 18 titles, have long held the record almost by assumed right as English champions, a title that was so much in their grasp that they became complacent about their status and are now on the cusp of being superseded by the most successful club in the Premiership era, Manchester United.


Manchester´s 10 titles in 18 years of the Premier League has bridged the gap between the two clubs so that now there is just a single title between them.


Should they win another one, they will then be equal with their fiercest inter-city rivals and another landmark will have been achieved by Sir Alex Ferguson in his pursuit of leaving his managerial post with United as the most successful club in the league.


Both Sir Alex Ferguson and Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez are vastly aware of the implications that this will have, and they have stepped up their pursuit of the right off-season transfer targets.


Earlier in the season, Sir Alex mentioned that he would stay on for two or three years, and although it wasn´t mentioned at the time, this is just enough time to bridge the gap on the Mersyside rivals.


His desperation in trying to keep Cristiano Ronaldo is amplified by the knowledge that achieving this goal will be that much more difficult without him. His pursuit of Bulgarian Berbatov will shore up an attack that, while strong last season, ended up disproportionately weighed to the awesome displays of the Portuguese international.


With Louis Saha an injury-prone benchwarmer for most of the year, a fresh natural goalscorer with an exemplary eye for goal and the creative touch of a master craftsman would compliment the current United style perfectly.


Rafael Benitez has the difficult task of bringing Liverpool back from the dead. A team that came in fourth last year and hasn´t won a league title since 1989-1990 needs a visceral and dramatic improvement this year. For them, Manchester must be stopped.


The Kop faithful will be unlikely to forgive their feuding American owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, should they also preside over the year where their club´s long reign at the head of English League football should be passed onto another team, let alone Manchester United, their great recent nemesis.


Therefore, Liverpool have been actively pursuing players to fill the perceived gaps at left back, on the wings and added midfield support for the blossoming partnership of Gerrard and Torres.


Their attempt at grabbing Aston Villa midfielder Gareth Barry raised the ire of Villa manager Martin O´Neill. After a drawn-out saga, the issue is on the back burner, as they try to slam the brakes on the long-proposed Manchester move for Berbatov.


Should Tottenham sell either Berbatov or Keane, they will be unwilling to see the other leave as well, therefore making it significantly more difficult for their rivals to gain their transfer target.


While Tottenham have not said that they wouldn´t not consider selling both strikers, it is sure that manager Juande Ramos will not be excited about losing either, let alone both, after developing a potent attacking formation in recent years.


Ramos called Ferguson the absolute hypocrite, after the United manager´s criticism of Real Madrid´s similar pursuit of Ronaldo, while Benitez knows that this year is his Waterloo on how good he actually is.


This has been the first time that both clubs have shown the absolute desperation for this year´s title and should only one striker be sold from Tottenham, the potential northern winner will take a big step in the right direction to achieving their goals this season.