Rio Ferdinand believes Arsenal will have to sit out this season's title bout, instead insisting United's crown will be contested with Liverpool and Chelsea.
"It's not beyond Arsenal but it is my personal opinion that it will be between the other three this season," he told PA Sport at the team hotel in Japan.
Ferdinand is in Yokohama with the Reds squad attempting to be the first British team to win the FIFA Club World Cup. And although United's involvement in the competition could mean falling behind the Premier League's pacesetters, Rio is confident the Reds will be among the chasing pack in 2009.
"At the moment it looks like being nip and tuck, but usually from Christmas onwards the teams who are going to be there at the end start pulling away.
"I can see that happening this season. I presume ourselves, Chelsea and Liverpool will pull away, then it will be down to two and finally one."
United's draw against Tottenham before flying out to Japan could have been damaging, but dropped points for Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal maintained an irregular pattern of results in the league this season.
"It looks like teams will drop points," adds Rio. "Hull going to Anfield and getting a draw is a massive result for them. Who would have said that before the season kicked off? And West Ham getting a draw at Chelsea was a surprise as well. There have been quite a few unusual results this season but I'm sure it is good for the fans."
United will hope for more dropped points when Arsenal take on Liverpool on Sunday, with Chelsea travelling to Everton on Monday.