Sir Alex Ferguson knows that the mammoth clash this weekend against Chelsea is crucial to his side’s title hopes.
Ferguson insists an early conclusion to his side’s league battles with title rivals Chelsea this season should not detract from the significance of this Sunday’s clash.
Every season since 2002-03, the Red Devils have faced Chelsea in the closing weeks of the season, with their summit meetings frequently termed title deciders.
However, after September’s 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge, this weekend’s match at Old Trafford will bring an unusually early end to their Barclays Premier League hostilities.
But although the games remaining this season would give either team plenty of time to recover from defeat, Ferguson insists the importance should not be downplayed.
"That will be a big game. It’s unusual to have it in January, it’s usually towards the end of the season," the Scot told Inside United magazine.
"It’s been later – in the last two or three games – for the last two seasons. It doesn’t matter when you play Chelsea, though, it’s always going to be a massive game.
"It’s a little different with the timing, but we’re still aiming to win it. They’ve done very well away from home but not so well at home so it’s been interesting from them this season."
Should United win in front of their own fans it will take them to within a point of Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side with two games in hand.
And Ferguson admits that would strike a major psychological blow against the team widely expected to provide their main competition for the Premier League crown.
"If we can get within a couple of points of Chelsea and we’ve games in hand, then we’re in a great position," he said.