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Monday, 30 September, 2002, 16:50 GMT 17:50 UK
Ferguson rues poor start
Leeds striker Alan Smith celebrates a win over Manchester United
Man Utd dropped three points at Elland Road
Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson believes his side's poor start to the season could have been avoided.

The 2000-2001 champions made their worst start to a Premiership campaign, picking up just eight points in their first six games.


The bitter pill comes from the matches at Chelsea, Sunderland and Leeds - we should have won those easily
Sir Alex Ferguson

They have also seen Arsenal take their record-breaking form into the new season.

And Arsene Wenger's side are in such stunning form that they are now almost universally considered to be the team to beat.

But Ferguson believes his players have squandered chances that could have helped them avoid their stuttering start to the season.

"We could have done better," he said. "The bitter pill comes from the matches at Chelsea, Sunderland and Leeds.

"We should have won those games easily and we are disappointed with that.

"The way the league is shaping up at the moment, you can't afford a lot of mistakes.

"But we are coming into a decent run of form and hopefully we can keep it going."

Wins over Tottenham and Charlton have helped the Red Devils climb to fourth in the table, but they remain six points adrift of the Gunners.

Injuries have also played a part in United's failure to capture top form early on.

Sir Alex Ferguson
Ferguson is confident they can turn it around

But Ferguson believes the return of Paul Scholes at the weekend after a knee operation could be key to their hopes of staying in touch with the leaders.

"I can't ignore how much of a relief it is to have Paul back in the side," he said.

"It doesn't matter whether it is midfield or attack, he is such a great player you know he will produce.

"It is never easy when you are missing players like that."

Things are not so promising for last season's top scorer Ruud van Nistelrooy, who sustained a hamstring injury against Bayer Leverkusen.

He came on as a substitute against Charlton to score his fifth goal in four games, but Ferguson admitted the injury has left him in a quandary.

"I took a risk with Ruud on Saturday but if we keep playing him the injury could get worse," said Ferguson.

"We have kept it in check quite well so far, but it is a problem."

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Man Utd boss Sir Alex Ferguson
"It's great to have Scholes and Gary Neville back"
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