WARNING: The opening paragraph does not make happy reading for Manchester United fans. The champions have won only two points from their last three games, they are in ninth position, their lowest ever at this stage of a Premier League season. They have scored fewer goals at Old Trafford than basement club Sunderland has at the Stadium of Light. The Reds have already lost four matches — they were defeated five times in the entire season last time around.

United trails leader Arsenal by a seemingly uncatchable 12 points, a gap that must seem more like the Grand Canyon when you are looking up.

The good news is that under Sir Alex Ferguson, United twice overhauled 12-point deficits to win the Premier League: in 1992-93 when it railed Norwich by a dozen points after 17 games, and in 1995-96 when it was behind Newcastle by the same margin after 23 matches.