ALEX Ferguson has admitted Manchester United need to grind results out during the current congested phase of the season.
United head to Reading tomorrow evening having maintained their place at the top of the Premier League thanks to their 1-0 win over West Ham on Wednesday.
It was not pretty, though, as once Robin van Persie had scored the fastest goal of the season after 33 seconds, United laboured to victory, enduring a few nervy moments before claiming the points.
However, with the final match of their Champions League group phase looming, followed by the crucial trip to Manchester City and then the packed festive programme, Ferguson accepts it is purely about picking up points just now.
"It is the time of the year when you grind results out," he said.
"The internationals are out of the way and we play our last group game in the Champions League next Wednesday, which gives us further opportunity to concentrate on the league.
"It is a big moment for us."
Improvement is required though. Whether having to come from behind or finding it impossible to overcome obdurate opponents, rarely have the Red Devils emerged from any game trouble-free this term.
"It was a long way from a classic," said Michael Carrick of the West Ham win. "The biggest plus was the clean sheet, which at least gives us something to build on.
"We had a spell a few years ago when we really started games well and could have killed teams off.
"We want to try and get back to something near that because Old Trafford is a difficult place to come when you go a goal down."
Further changes can be anticipated for the trip to the Madejski.
Paul Scholes returns from suspension, while Valencia could also be involved if he recovers from a hip problem, as United found the diamond formation Ferguson deployed on Wednesday something of a struggle.