Sir Alex Ferguson is under no illusions as to the stern test awaiting the newly-crowned world champions at Stoke City's Britannia Stadium.
The Reds travel to the west midlands on Boxing Day, fully expecting to be faced by a vociferous crowd and a team scrapping for every ball.
"I’ve been to the Britannia Stadium for quite a few games over the years, and there’s always that really hot atmosphere," the manager told his pre-match press conference.
"They are really passionate down there, and you have to deal with that. You could be going to Sunderland, Newcastle or Anfield, they’re similar situations you have to deal with."
The Potters have made a solid start to life in the Premier League, taking 20 points from 18 games, but are still mired in a tight relegation battle - and Sir Alex admits the ante has been upped by the bottom half of the division this season.
"We expect Stoke to fight for everything because if you look at the bottom of the league, there are 10 teams separated by seven points," he said. "It’s the tightest I can remember.
"Last year the difference between the fourth-bottom and bottom place was 14 points, so it’s a change. This season, teams at the bottom may need well over 40 points to guarantee safety, and we always say that 40 points is the safety margin."