Should Arsenal win on Sunday they will be able to bask in the satisfaction of a Premiership double over Manchester United - yet they would still be 12 points behind Sir Alex Ferguson's side in the Premiership table.

It is a highly unusual scenario. And it is all the more surprising given that Arsène Wenger's side have also beaten third-place Liverpool three times and ground out a worthy draw at title-challenging Chelsea.

But at the same time it clearly demonstrates the biggest single factor that has prevented Arsenal challenging more seriously for the title this season.

"Manchester United have been more consistent against the smaller teams in the League than we have," explained Arsène Wenger at his pre-match press conference on Friday afternoon.

"We lost against Fulham, Manchester City and Sheffield United which they didn't do. But if you look at the stronger teams and compare the results of the two teams we're not behind anybody.

"It's a big frustration because we dropped points at the beginning of the season through lack of experience and lack of form. I still feel we carried a bit from the World Cup, a bit of indigestion.

"But when you play a young player at the start of the season you know you'll pay for his education with points. That's what happened to us a little bit."

For the record, Arsenal's last three doubles over Manchester United have all come in title-winning seasons - 2002, 1998 and 1991. It is 29 years since Arsenal beat the Old Trafford team home and away yet did not win the League.

17/2 - Arsenal v Manchester United: Arsenal to win 2-1

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19 Jan 2007