Manchester United striker Michael Owen has questioned whether Premier League leaders Manchester City will be able to sustain their impressive recent form for the entire campaign and insists the Red Devils will be ready to capitalise on any future slip-ups.
Owen, 31, expects City to be United's main title rivals this season and Roberto Mancini's side certainly proved their credentials when dishing out a 6-1 thrashing at Old Trafford last month.
That result - coupled with an unbeaten start to the season that has seen only Fulham take points off the 2011 FA Cup winners - has led many to suggest that it will be a big ask for any club to halt the seemingly unstoppable City juggernaut.
But while Owen recognises that City are certainly "a force to be reckoned with", he is confident that they will not experience an uncontested march to a first championship crown in more than 30 years.
"They are top of the league, playing great - as well as they've performed in years," Owen said. "They obviously beat us quite well in the league and deserved to win that game but it was only a few weeks earlier that we played really well and beat them in the Community Shield - everyone was taking a step back then and saying 'it might be a year too soon for Man City' and it just shows how quickly things can change.
"They're on a crest of a wave at the minute - but every team will go through a sticky patch at some point and we're still early on in the season. We'll see what happens after Christmas and start forming opinions then, but there's no doubt about it, they're a force to be reckoned with.
"Man United over the years have always gone on great runs towards the end of the season and have pulled it out of the fire many times. There's only five points difference at the moment, there's a lot of football to be played - we've got a manager who has been there, seen it and done it, as have a number of the lads too.
"We've got a big squad to cope with playing in a number of competitions and we're confident. It'll be a tough challenge with Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool and Tottenham all in there as well but I think Man City will be the biggest challengers."
Michael Owen was speaking at the launch of the new Umbro Speciali 92 collection, created to mark the 20th anniversary of the iconic Umbro football boot.