Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson believes his team have been ''handicapped'' by their fixture programme in the Premier League this season.
United have had an away match after each of their European clashes so far and Ferguson's side will be on their travels again after their remaining Champions League group games against Villarreal and Aalborg.
Red Devils boss Ferguson believes that sequence has done his team no favours, with yesterday's 2-1 defeat by Arsenal, which came three days after the trip to Celtic, leaving United well off the pace domestically.
Ferguson also believes United's run of games in the Premier League has been particularly tough, given the identity of their early opponents away from Old Trafford.
''They say the league's not handicapped but it is handicapped,'' Ferguson said ''Every game after a European tie is away from home.
''We've got the top 10 teams from last year's league all away from home in the first half of the season.
''So you can see it's been a big challenge to us.
''But hopefully, if we can get in among the top ones come the turn of the year, we'll have a big chance next year.''
Ferguson's players created enough chances to beat Arsenal, but Samir Nasri's double proved decisive yesterday at the Emirates Stadium.
The United boss was impressed and took some heart from his team's display.
''It's a consolation in one way but it doesn't put bread on the table for you, it doesn't get points in the bag for you,'' he said. ''It was a disappointing day for us.''
United's failure to take their chances was clearly frustrating for the long-serving Scot.
''The consolation you take out of it is we played some fantastic football,'' he said.
''And I think we made the best chances of the match and we could have scored four, five, maybe six goals.