Sir Alex Ferguson believes Manchester United's chances of beating Manchester City to the Premier League title depend on their position at the turn of the year.
English champions United responded to their Champions League exit with a resounding 4-1 win over Wolves that moved them to within two points of domestic table-toppers City.
The midweek 2-1 defeat by Basel meant United failed to make it through to the knock-out phase of the Champions League for only the third time and during the match in Switzerland they also lost captain Nemanja Vidic for the remainder of the season with a knee injury.
While City's next two domestic matches are against Chelsea and Arsenal, United have a relatively easy run in the Premier League.
Their next group of games sees them come up against QPR, Fulham, Wigan and Blackburn in the run up to January.
City's impressive start to the season has left some observers believing the race for the Premier League title is a foregone conclusion.
But United manager Ferguson was adamant that plenty can change over the next six months.
"You hope (the win over Wolves puts City under pressure) but the important thing is to have our game right and if we get to New Year's Day in the frame, we've got a great chance in the second half of the season," he said.
"On Wednesday (in Basel) we worked our socks off and didn't get a break but against Wolves we worked our socks off and got the breaks. Some of the football was fantastic.
"They're all disappointed about Wednesday and the young players haven't experienced a bad defeat like that before but it will be a good thing for them."
Nani opened the scoring at Old Trafford with his first Premier League goal since September and Wayne Rooney ended a similarly barren run -- he had not scored in eight league games -- shortly afterwards.
Steven Fletcher pulled one back just after half time but Nani added a third before Rooney scored United's fourth.
Now Ferguson is hoping England striker Rooney can go on a scoring spree.
"You hope they go on a spurt now. Wayne goes in spurts and he scored 11 in the early part of the season.
"We're now in an important part of the season and if he can do that again it will put us in good fettle."
Wolves remain without an away since the opening day of the season and manager Mick McCarthy said he always feared the worst at Old Trafford despite United's recent problems.
"For all the hype and talk about their demise, which is nonsense, you look at the players on the pitch and some of them are young and developing.
"I know (Ferguson) isn't immune to pressure and I just find it refreshing when the best managers are under pressure and getting stick and if he can get it, it makes me feel better," McCarthy added.
"They're having a tough time but it's cyclical and when it comes around you have to work and change things around and he's better at that than anyone else.
"Doing that, you have some tough results from time to time but he (Ferguson) is still the top dog."
McCarthy was pleased with the performance of Wolves winger Matthew Jarvis, who earned his first England cap against Ghana in March.
The 25-year-old has come in for criticism in recent weeks but McCarthy said: "If you're talking about United not having the best of form all the time, I wonder why Matthew Jarvis is expected to be different.
"He's done wonderfully well since he came from Gillingham for �600,000 ($940,000) and he's expected to do it week in, week out.
"Sometimes we can't get the ball to him as often as we'd like but I wonder what damage he would do playing for United or City."