Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has conceded that he would accept a two-point deficit on leaders Chelsea in the midst of an injury crisis.
The Red Devils have been struck down by a number of casualties of late, most notably in defence, but are still within touching distance of the Premier League leaders.
A win against Wigan at Old Trafford on Wednesday would see them cut the Blues' lead at the top of the table to two points at the turn of the year.
And with a number of first-team players set to return against the Latics, Ferguson is pleased to be within reach of Carlo Ancelotti's side.
"I would definitely have taken being two points behind the leaders," he said.
"When you look at all the defenders we have had out injured. It has been a key period to try and get through it.
"It is impossible to play midfield players at centre-back in this league. You might get away with it once. But not twice.
"It (the league) is so tight. When you see it grouped up like that the teams further down think they can do it.
"Sometimes the optimism is not realistic but people should feel like that about their chances because the league has lacked a consistent team that has won a few matches in a row."
Gary Neville is set to join Nemanja Vidic and Wes Brown in the squad for the Wigan game, as Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher move back to their familiar roles in midfield.
Ferguson believes the key to winning the league is keeping the best players fit, and he says that top sides need a small nucleus of key figures.
"The vital answer to it is this - can you keep all your players fit?" he added.
"Big squads do help but look how we suffered by having all the defenders out.
"Teams who want to do well need a good nucleus of players to work with. Then you can pick your strongest possible team every week."