Sir Alex Ferguson does not expect the Barclays Premier League title race to take shape until after the next international break.
Ferguson's Manchester United side head to Chelsea on Sunday knowing their first victory at Stamford Bridge since 2002 will allow them to jump back to the top of the table.
"The Premier League does not settle until all the internationals are over," he said. "Once we get over this next bout of internationals we will probably see a truer league."
A win on Sunday would put them in prime position for the resumption of domestic hostilities on November 21, after which, FA Cup weekends apart, battle will take place on a regular basis until a conclusion is reached on May 9.
Nevertheless, defeat would leave United five points adrift of Carlo Ancelotti's men and playing the old game of catch-up, which they used to be so good at, only to come unstuck when Jose Mourinho mastered the art of maintaining momentum after a flying start.
The continued absence of Rio Ferdinand is causing a concern, although Nemanja Vidic's return after a minor calf strain does provide United with their own forceful presence with which to try and quell Didier Drogba.
Not that the task has proved easy in recent times.
Once one of United's favoured grounds, Stamford Bridge has turned into a bit of a hellhole in recent years.
"There is no point looking back six years ago," Ferguson added. "It is better just to look at the present team and what they are capable of. We are capable of winning the game, there is no doubt about that.
"It is a strange situation because we used to have a terrific record down there up until a few years ago. But we have let it slip and we have to get our act together."
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