Sir Alex Ferguson insists the quality of the Premier League is still getting better.
One win from five for Chelsea, too many draws for Manchester United and three home defeats already at Arsenal have led to a far more open top flight this term - and a widespread conclusion that standards have fallen.
Ferguson's immediate task is to find a way for his United to beat Valencia in the Champions League on Tuesday night. However, with Arsenal and Chelsea his side's next two league opponents, domestic matters clearly occupy a significant place in his thoughts.
And, rather than agree his own side are among a group of underperforming title contenders, Ferguson is adamant the league is getting stronger.
"It is a strange Premier League this season," he said. "We have to give credit to the lower parts of the league who are now catching up and condensing it into a much tighter competition. The table is like we are used to seeing in the Championship every year where you win two games and you are challenging for the play-off spots.
"Only a few weeks ago Sunderland were down the bottom. Now they are challenging for a European place. That is the kind of league we are in at the moment. It is difficult to assess whether it is the teams at the top who are failing or the one below them getting better. I think it is the lower teams getting better because the standard has improved."