Louis van Gaal thinks Manchester United will be in a much better position to challenge for the title next year because of their shorter pre-season tour.
In his first press conference in the United States last July, Van Gaal launched a scathing attack on the club's five-match tour, which saw them visit Los Angeles, Denver, Washington DC, Michigan and Miami.
Ten months on, the Dutchman is convinced his team would be challenging for the Premier League had it not been for the draining three-week schedule, which was agreed before he took over as United manager.
United won just three of their opening 10 games after picking up a number of early-season injuries. The World Cup played its part too, but Van Gaal thinks the tour was a prime reason why his team is 15 points behind Chelsea, who will win the league this weekend if they beat Crystal Palace.
"We started very badly this year. When you cut out the start we shall equal Chelsea, but we have to start better," said Van Gaal.
United announced this week that they would be returning to the States to defend the International Champions Cup.
This time they will play four matches along the west coast and they will base themselves in Seattle and San Jose or San Francisco to avoid travelling between cities for their games against Club America, Barcelona, Paris St Germain and San Jose Earthquakes.
That, Van Gaal believes, will help United challenge for the title, rather than the top four.
Chelsea beat United 1-0 last month to end Van Gaal's chances of winning the Premier League in his first year at United.
The Blues look a cut above their rivals, but Van Gaal insists there is no gulf between United and Chelsea, which gives him hope for next season.
"This year Chelsea is far above the other clubs. Next year it can be different,'' he said. "There is not a big gap. You can judge that when clubs play against each other.''