As his side go into Saturday’s trip to Reading, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has dismissed that the battle for this season’s Premier League title has already become a two-horse race.
United currently lead champions Manchester City by a single point, with there now being a further six-point gap back to third placed Chelsea.
"It's early-season. It's only the end of November, so I don't think you can be certain by saying it's a two-horse race at this time,” Ferguson said, according to Sky Sports.
"Over the years, we've always hoped the top five, or top six, are all capable of winning the league but eventually it ends up being a two-horse race.
"The important thing is you look at yourself. You need to stay up there all the time and this is not an easy league to do that.
With just goal difference separating the two Manchester sides last season, Ferguson will know the importance of getting the three points against a Reading side with just a solitary win all season. The pressure could be enhanced too by the fact that City may well have taken first place in the table earlier in the day as they face Everton.
United go into the fixture without wingers Antonio Valencia and Nani, while Shinji Kagawa remains on the sidelines. Nemanja Vidic is nearing a return to fitness, though, and should take part in Wednesday’s meeting with Cluj.
Since picking up their first win upon returning to the top flight, Reading have suffered two agonizing defeats courtesy of conceding a late goal to both Wigan and Aston Villa. There is now a four-point gap between them and the safety of fourth from bottom in the Premier League and Royals boss Brian McDermott will know that his side cannot afford to get cut further adrift.
McDermott will face an anxious wait on the fitness of midfielders Danny Guthrie and Jimmy Kebe, while Alex McCarthy and Jem Karacan remain on the sidelines.
D: Gunter, Morrison, Mariappa, Shorey
M: McAnuff, Leigertwood, Tabb, Robson-Kanu
F: Roberts, Le Fondre
Manchester United (probable)
D: Rafael, Evans, Ferdinand, Evra
M: Scholes, Carrick, Anderson
Welbeck, Van Persie
Prediction: Manchester United struggled in victory over West Ham on Wednesday and with a side that looks set to lack any real width, Reading may have some cause for optimism. However, with Van Persie in a rich vein of from up front, United just have too much going forward for the Royals to contain for 90 minutes.
Reading 1-3 Manchester United
Where to watch: The Barclays Premier League match kicks-off from the Madejski stadium at 12.30 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by the Fox Soccer Channel, with a live stream available on Fox Soccer 2Go.