LONDON (AP) — The Premier League season is barely two months old, and Manchester United has left itself with little margin for further errors if the title is to be successfully defended.
United only dropped 25 points last season as Alex Ferguson delivered the club's 20th English title before retiring.
In just eight games this season, David Moyes' side has already missed out on 13 points and is eight behind leader Arsenal in eighth place.
After being held to a 1-1 draw at home to Sunderland last weekend, United on Saturday hosts a Stoke side sitting just a point above the relegation zone. A win for Stoke, though, would put it level on points with United.
Here are five things to know about the weekend fixtures.
Wayne Rooney demonstrated in United's Champions League victory over Real Sociedad on Wednesday just how much the team is relying on him once again. The striker told Ferguson toward the end of last season he wanted to leave because he was unhappy at his playing time. Ferguson had reservations about Rooney's fitness.
And now? "The new coach that has come in (has given me) a new lease of life," Rooney said. "I'm really enjoying working under David Moyes."
That joy might not last long if the results don't pick up.
"We have been too inconsistent," Rooney said. "We have to get that consistency about our game ... we are already a few points behind in the league so we can't drop any more at this stage."
It's a weekend of celebrations in England as the Football Association celebrates its 150th anniversary on Saturday. Hours before a birthday dinner attended by FIFA President Sepp Blatter at the London site of the FA's first meeting comes a landmark match: Aston Villa vs. Everton.
The significance? No English sides have played each other more times than Villa and Everton, who will meet for the 215th time on Saturday. Their 196 league games have all come in the topflight, and they have also played 18 times in cup competitions.
One of the most anticipated matches of the season so far is on Sunday when Chelsea and Manchester City — two of the leading title contenders — meet at Stamford Bridge. Jose Mourinho's Chelsea is two points behind Arsenal in second place and one ahead of Manuel Pellegrini's City. Mourinho and Pellegrini are being reunited after arriving in England from Spain in the offseason. Last season Mourinho's Real Madrid and Pellegrini's Malaga each won one of their league encounters.
Before he could face the daunting prospect of playing leader Arsenal on Saturday, Ian Holloway decided to step down as Crystal Palace manager on Wednesday. Admitting he felt worn out and had lost the ability to inspire the team, Holloway became the second managerial casualty of the Premier League season. Palace has lost seven of its eight games since gaining promotion, leaving Holloway's successor with a tough task to keep the team in the topflight.
Southampton is only in its second season back in the topflight, and is this year's surprise package. Heading into Saturday's home match against Fulham, the south-coast side is sixth, four points behind the leaders. And the team has conceded just three goals, making it in the second stingiest defense in Europe's top five leagues — England, Germany, France, Italy and Spain — behind Roma.