Manager David Moyes wants Manchester United to clear their minds of title talk as they look to avoid losing three successive Premier League games for the first time since 2001.
United travel to Aston Villa on Sunday for a league fixture that they have not lost since 1995, but with the champions already 13 points behind leaders Arsenal, their grip on the title is weakening.
However, Moyes believes that discussing the possibility of closing the gap and winning a 21st league title has to stop until they get back in the mix with the other contenders.
“The gap is bigger than we would like it to be,” he said.
“We would like to be closer. We can only do one game at a time. Let’s look at it later on next year and let us see if we can answer the question better then.”
United will be without striker Robin van Persie, who has been ruled out for a month with a thigh strain.
Wayne Rooney is set to return to league action after missing last weekend’s defeat by Newcastle United through suspension after he picked up his fifth booking of the season in the loss against Everton just four days before.
The England striker will make his 500th club appearance if he features against Villa and Moyes expects him to pick up plenty more with a midfield role a possibility later in his career.
For all United’s early-season struggles, Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert does not buy into the belief that the dominant force of the past 20 years are now in decline.
“It’s the same group of lads who had the mentality of winning things,” Lambert said.
Beaten 2-0 at Fulham last weekend, which was their first defeat in six league games, Aston Villa are in 11th place on the table ahead of the weekend’s fixtures, three points below United.