One of Sir Alex Ferguson's favourite mantras this season is about how the championship bar is higher than it has ever been, lifted first by Arsenal's historic unbeaten run throughout the 2003-04 campaign and then by Chelsea's record haul of 95 points last term, "You'll have to win 27, 28 games to get near that figure," he remarked last week.
By his calculations, therefore, United must win approximately 25 of their remaining 33 fixtures to claim a first title in three years next May after successive draws with Manchester City and Liverpool slowed their perfect start and left them seven points behind the flawless leaders, albeit with a game in hand.
The margin of error is diminishing, and as far as Scholes is concerned there will not be one at all when United face Blackburn tomorrow and Fulham on Saturday week. "If we can't beat Blackburn and Fulham we have no hope of winning the League," the midfielder told MUTV. "It was against the lower teams that we dropped so many stupid points last season and why we fell so far behind. If we are to have any hopes this year we cannot afford to do that."
Scholes' point is valid. United finished 18 points adrift of Chelsea last season - exactly the number of points they dropped against teams who finished in the bottom half of the Premiership table.
With the exception of Newcastle, however, all of this season's fixtures thus far have come against teams in the top half, an itinerary that provides Scholes with the consolation that Chelsea, he hopes, can be caught.
"Apart from Arsenal, Chelsea have not played many of the top teams while we have had three or four really tough games," added the former England international. "We have dropped four points but I am sure Chelsea will drop points as well, we just can't afford to drop many more."
United will be in the unusual position of wishing Liverpool well when they entertain Jose Mourinho's side at Anfield on 2 October, four days after their Champions' League meeting, with Chelsea drawing comparisons with other domineering powers only six games into the season.
The West Ham manager, Alan Pardew, said: "Chelsea are so accomplished at the moment. It is a bit like Steve Davis - if you are that good it does tend to get a wee bit boring. But personally, from where I'm coming from, it is a great product and a great league."Reuse content