Two-goal hero Wayne Rooney celebrated a personal milestone at Old Trafford on Saturday but warned Manchester United they must buck up their ideas if their Premier League title challenge is not to end in disaster.
Rooney's salvo, in addition to goals from Robin van Persie and Danny Welbeck, allowed Manchester United to record a 4-2 win over Stoke. However, United found themselves behind for the seventh time in 11 games this season, and have now conceded seven goals in four Premier League home games.
And Rooney, whose brace took him to 200 club goals for United and Everton, knows it cannot continue. He said: "No disrespect to Stoke, but better opposition will punish us. We need to keep working and keep defending well."
Michael Kightly struck for the away side after United had responded to Rooney's early own goal with three strikes of their own, meaning Rooney's second was required to keep the Red Devils four points adrift of pacesetters Chelsea.
"We keep starting badly," said Sir Alex Ferguson. "Early goal against Fulham. Early goal against Tottenham. Early goal today.
"We are giving ourselves uphill fights. You don't want it to happen and hopefully we will get it sorted."
It was only Stoke's second defeat of the season, not a disastrous statistic considering they have played all the title challengers. And, whilst Chelsea have a clear advantage at present, Pulis is predicting a thrilling race.
"They have all got players in their teams who can change games," he said.
"Manchester United have got it, Chelsea, Arsenal. It will be a great Premier League this season.
"Tottenham got beaten today but they have got some outstanding players and obviously you have Manchester City in there."