Manchester City famously ripped off six straight victories (including a derby win over Manchester United) to claim last season's Premier League crown. If City has another such dominant run in them this season, now is probably the time for it.
United is already seven points clear of City at the top of the table, and United's upcoming schedule sets up favorably for the Red Devils to put the title far out of reach for the rest of the league even before winter ends.
The Baggies are running sixth presently, but the vast majority of the damage they have done has occurred at The Hawthorns. West Brom is actually a sub-.500 road side thus far, with four losses and two draws from nine away fixtures.
Liverpool is an even worse traveling side, with only two wins from nine road starts. And relegation-threatened Southampton is an abject disaster away from home, with six losses in eight away matches.
Suffice it to say that United will be comfortable favorites in all three of those games.
United's travels for their three upcoming road fixtures probably won't trouble Sir Alex Ferguson much, either. United will play Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium on New Year's Day; Wigan is in line for relegation in 18th place on the table.
The Feb. 2 visit to Craven Cottage to play Fulham similarly does not look to be much of a threat to United's aspirations.
Projecting results with certainty is of course impossible. But assessing what is most likely to happen in the short term is not.
By the look of the schedule, United seems unlikely to claim fewer than 12 points from their next six matches—and the chance for United to pile up 15 points or more in that time is very real.
So although half the season is left to play, for the suddenly-punchless Sky Blues, the need to win—NOW—could not be more emergent.
If City does not keep pace with United in the coming weeks, they may be looking at needing another furious late-season rally...just to hold on to second place.