New manager David Moyes has criticised the series of fixtures Manchester United have been handed at the start of the new season, hinting it is a deliberate ploy by the Premier League to give them a tough opening.
Among their first five games, the champions host Chelsea and travel to Manchester City and Liverpool.
"I think it's the hardest start for 20 years that Manchester United have had," Moyes told the BBC on Thursday.
"I hope it's not because Manchester United won the league quite comfortably last year (that) the fixtures have been made much more difficult.
"I find it hard to believe that's the way the balls came out of the bag, that's for sure," added Moyes ahead of his team's first match at Swansea City on Saturday.
The game with United is the only meeting title rivals Manchester City have with a top-five opponent from last season in their opening five fixtures.
Chelsea also face only one other game against a top-five opponent in that spell, at United on August 26.
Former Everton boss Moyes took over at Manchester United in the close season following Alex Ferguson's retirement.
Image: (L-R) Tottenham Hotspur Manager Andre Villas-Boas, Crystal Palace Manager Ian Holloway, Manchester United Manager David Moyes and Norwich City Manager Chris Hughton
Photograph: Jan Kruger/Getty Images