Sir Alex Ferguson puts Manchester United's below-par results away from Old Trafford this season down to the difficulty of their fixtures rather than any underlying problem for the Barclays Premier League champions.
United would normally have expected to register more than just two wins on their travels at this stage of the season.
Yet they head to Manchester City for Sunday's derby showdown boasting only a couple of successes, at Portsmouth and Blackburn and Ferguson said: "We have had a lot of hard games, Chelsea, Arsenal and now Man City away from home, straight after a European (match) is not easy."
He said: "Hopefully the second half will promise much better for us because at the moment, we are playing catch-up."
United's situation was not made any easier by the postponement of their meeting with Fulham in August, a game they have been unable to reschedule due to their extended run in the Carling Cup.
The meeting with Wigan on December 20 must also be put back as they will be competing to be named world number one in the Far East, placing even more emphasis on Sunday's short journey across Manchester to Eastlands, where United have won only twice in six trips.
Dimitar Berbatov is hopeful of recovering from his hamstring injury, although Ferguson is yet to decide whether to plunge the Bulgarian straight back into battle given the frenzy that can be expected as City go for a third straight triumph over their old rivals.
This is a new City as well. United old-boy Mark Hughes has taken over as manager, while the money men from Abu Dhabi now bankrolling the Blues have already smashed the British transfer record, spending £32.5million on Brazilian superstar Robinho.
"I heard about it all pretty late in the day," said Ferguson of City's stunning deadline-day capture.
"They made a bid for five or six players. The whole thing was a surprise because everyone expected Robinho to join Chelsea."
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