Wigan boss Roberto Martinez admits his team have a mental block when it comes to playing Manchester United.
The relegation-threatened Latics have not taken a point from the current Barclays Premier League leaders since they were promoted to the top flight in 2005. Their need to break that hoodoo is more urgent than ever as United visit the DW Stadium on Saturday at the start of a tough run of fixtures for Martinez's side.
Wigan next face Manchester City before taking on relegation rivals Birmingham and two more Champions League contenders in Tottenham and Chelsea. Martinez said: "We are not just facing the league leaders, which is a fantastic challenge, but through our history we have never taken one point from Manchester United. It is a mental block."
He added "But last year was the first time we beat any of the 'top four' teams, and we beat three of them. Manchester United are the only ones we have never taken anything from in the last six years. It makes it an important challenge."
Wigan are in the bottom three heading into the game but the table remains tight, with just 12 points separating Sunderland in seventh from bottom side Wolves. Wolves showed their capabilities with a stunning win over United earlier this month and, while that result did Wigan no favours, Martinez takes encouragement from it.
The Spaniard said: "The message is clear, don't expect favours from the outside. It will not be like other seasons where one or two teams are in clear difficulty and cannot fight until the end. This season is going to be very different. Teams have been performing really well of late, getting results, and are still in the bottom three.
"There are so many games with the sides in the bottom 10 of the Premier League left that it is impossible to predict. Any team can take points against anyone this year. If you look at the bottom three now, I can see all of those three are going to get opportunities to get out of those positions. The next 11 games are going to be really exciting for everyone."
It has been eight years since a team has needed more than 40 points to avoid relegation but Martinez believes that traditional safety barrier is likely to be the required mark this term. Hull and West Ham survived with just 35 in 2009 and 2010 respectively but Martinez views the competition as much tighter now.
Wigan currently have 27 and Martinez said: "I feel 40 points is going to be the target needed to stay in the Barclays Premier League, which is a big one compared to last year especially. It is such a difficult league but it comes down to your own performance and that is what we are focused on.
"Yes, it is going to be difficult, because we are playing against probably the best teams, not just in the Premier League, but European football. But I feel when we are at our best we are capable of competing against anyone. We have got one more point than we had last season at this stage."