Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has admitted the Barclays Premier League title race is back on.
On Sunday evening it seemed to be in the bag for United, who had opened up an eight-point lead with six games remaining over a Manchester City side apparently imploding under Roberto Mancini. But by Thursday morning there had been a significant shift in fortunes thanks to Wigan's shock win over United on Wednesday as the Blues defeated West Brom 4-0.
As City are in action first this weekend, United's lead could be down to just two points by kick-off of Sunday's encounter with Aston Villa, and Ferguson said: "The race is back on isn't it?. They [City] have a chance don't they? They haven't been playing well, they've said that, but a 4-0 win is a good result at this time of the season."
Immediately after that game, City manager Mancini ruled out overhauling United and then continued the reverse psychology ahead of his side's encounter with Norwich by disparaging his own side compared with Ferguson's.
United are not buying it though, with Ferguson electing to stay out of the mind games.
"That doesn't matter to us," he said. "We've all got opportunities to talk about mind games. He [Mancini] has maybe picked the wrong time to say it."
Ferguson faces one of his former players this weekend in old Aberdeen stalwart Alex McLeish.
A series of depressing Villa performances have not done much to soothe relations between McLeish and the club's fans, who were not impressed by the choice of an old Birmingham manager as their new boss last summer. Along with Blackburn's Steve Kean, McLeish has suffered the most intense in-house abuse in the top flight this term.
Yet it seems everyone is open to scrutiny, including Ferguson, whose decision to rest Paul Scholes for Wednesday night's shock defeat at Wigan was condemned by many supporters on United's own TV channel.
Asked whether the abuse McLeish has received could happen anywhere, Ferguson said: "I think so, yes. It is a change in society. I spoke some time ago about the picture of the melee on the pitch between United and Leeds and in the background the fans were completely passive. You wouldn't get that today."