Rodgers' side will open a 14-point lead over their rivals if they win this weekend's Super Sunday game at Old Trafford and are already strongly-placed to finish above United for the first time in 14 years.
If that would restore a measure of Merseyside pride after two decades of United success, Rodgers' priority is keeping Liverpool in a Premier League title race which is approaching its final stages without the 13-time winners.
"The benchmark for us is the best," he said. "First of all we are always challenging the team at the top - not Manchester United, who are further down.
"Liverpool has its own great history both domestically and in European football so for us the benchmark has always been the best and we will always look to do that.
"I never said when I came in here we wanted to be fourth. Top four is where we want to be but Liverpool will always be judged on being the best, both here and in Europe not against Manchester United.
"We are only concentrating on ourselves. They have some great players, they have probably one of the largest wage bills so they have top players there but I don't know the dressing room well enough to know where they are at."
Liverpool have a seven-point gap to close on leaders Chelsea but head into the weekend in second, a position that represents real progress following last season's seventh-placed finish in Rodgers' first year.
"Our focus is only on Liverpool," he said. "The club decided to go a certain way 18 months ago and I was asked to carry on some of the brilliant work Kenny Dalglish did in reshaping the club.
"We have just continued down a road which has seen us develop and improve. There is still a long way to go in terms of where we want to be but we are on the right road."
The Northern Irishman experienced some difficult moments in the months after succeeding Dalglish, and he expects United counterpart David Moyes to emerge from this season's struggles in similar style.
He said: "I have empathy for the pressures which come with taking over such a huge club.
"It is incomparable the states of the two clubs because they were champions, there are serial winners in there, and when I came to this club they were eighth. The rebuilding and remodelling of the two clubs was totally different.
"David will be fine there and he will get it right. It has been a steep learning curve for him this year, he will have gone in there and seen things you only have a certain length of time to address. But I am sure he will have learned a lot this season and will kick on."
Watch Liverpool go to Manchester United as part of this weekend's Super Sunday bill. Coverage begins at 12.30pm on Sky Sports 1