Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has broken his media silence to run the rule over this weekend's FA Cup opponents Arsenal, describing the Gunners as the "main danger" to his side's trophy ambitions.
Ferguson refused to speak to the media before or after United's 3-1 defeat to Liverpool on Sunday as he was aggrieved with the way his post-match comments about referee Martin Atkinson were reported, following the Red Devils' 2-1 loss at Chelsea last week.
But he has abandoned his position to assess the threat of Arsenal, who visit Old Trafford for an FA Cup quarter-final on Saturday needing to pick themselves up after the disappointment of their Champions League exit at the hands of Barcelona.
Ferguson has been impressed, if not a little surprised, with the Gunners resurgence this season, and is happy to label them United's chief Premier League title challengers.
The Scot believes the Gunners have "rearranged the pecking order'' after emerging as credible title contenders ahead of the likes of Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester City.
"Last season they faded around the February to March period to leave Chelsea and ourselves in a two-horse race that saw us pipped at the post by a point," Ferguson said.
"I think most pundits expected to see something similar this season, plus a challenge from Spurs and Manchester City to make it even more difficult for Arsenal to get back up to the top.
"But Arsene Wenger and his players have rearranged the pecking order somewhat to come storming through to lie in second place. Clearly they represent the main danger to us achieving our ambitions in a revival of the rivalry of a few years ago, and I am sure they regard us as the major threat to their hopes.''
As for the Liverpool match, Ferguson held his hands up and admitted United deserved to lose to their rivals.
"I have no excuses for the poor performance at Liverpool, who were the better team and deserved their win,'' Ferguson said. "I was disappointed because we didn't perform to the level I expect and which, to be fair, we generally achieve.''