MANCHESTER - Sir Alex Ferguson has billed Manchester United's visit to Arsenal on Sunday as the match that could make or break his squad's season.
"I think the game on Sunday, to my mind now looking at the way the league is shaping up, is the biggest game of the season for us," the Scot told reporters at United's training ground on Friday.
"Arsenal have gone on a consistent run and it's amazing how this league has changed.
"The team that is most consistent will win the league now and Arsenal's current form has been very good and I'm looking forward to it.
"At the moment the league is looking like a three horse race but there have been so many changes and different result from the top sides that you cannot be 100 percent certain."
Just two points separate Chelsea at the top of the table and Arsenal in third with United in between. "Of course Chelsea have the advantage of the game in hand and if they win that they go four points ahead of us," Ferguson added.
"So that is the catch up part we are in and that means Sunday has a great relevance to both of us because we have a genuine chance to win the league."
Ahead of the match, Ferguson has appealed to United's travelling supporters to get behind his players in a positive way rather than indulging in the personal abuse of his Arsenal counterpart Arsene Wenger which has been a regular and unpleasant feature of meetings between the two clubs.
"I think it's unavoidable in the way that managers get abused today," Ferguson said. "Sometimes I can't hear these chants and I can't make them out but I know there's been some terrible abuse from our fans to Arsene Wenger and there must be a line drawn and I think our fans must know that themselves.
"I was really proud of the way they supported us (in the League Cup win over Manchester City) on Wednesday. We don't need to worry about anyone else -- they should be proud of the team they are supporting."
Ferguson meanwhile has hinted that United will not appeal against the ban that has ruled Rio Ferdinand out of the club's next four matches despite what he sees as blatant inconsistencies in the handling of violent conduct cases.
Ferdinand was charged by the Football Association after flooring Craig Fagan with a swinging arm in United's 4-0 win against Hull last weekend.
The mandatory three-match ban was increased to four after the FA deemed United's appeal to be "frivolous" and Ferdinand will miss Sunday's encounter with Arsenal as well as further games against Portsmouth, Aston Villa and Everton.
Ferguson initially announced that United would try to have the decision looked at again only to later contradict himself by insisting the incident is now finished with.
"We have to decide if we appeal it because there are conflicting ways of viewing some of these decisions," he said. "I watched Charlton and Leyton Orient the other night and the Leyton Orient goal came after an elbow on the Charlton player three times and nothing happened.
"So there's a lot of confusion in terms of these decisions but we accepted he is banned and we will get on with it - there's nothing we can do about it."
If United were to appeal again, they would risk the ban being increased to five matches which would rule Ferdinand out of the League Cup final at the end of next month.