Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is adamant his side would have reached the Champions League final had they successfully qualified from the group stage this season.
United failed to reach the knock-out phase for the first-time in 16 seasons after losing to Basel in their final group match, dropping down to the Europa League as a result.
They begin their campaign with a visit to Ajax on Thursday, and Ferguson is ruing his side's failures earlier in the season ahead of the trip to the Amsterdam Arena.
"It was a massive disappointment because my feeling is that if we'd gone through, we would have gone on to the final," Ferguson said.
"For me, the problem was the home game against Basel. We were 2-0 up and then missed four or five clear-cut chances. We ended up losing our concentration and though we managed to salvage a draw, it was a bad result for us.
"It left us having to go and get at least a point in the return game. And though we dominated the match, we didn't score, and when that happens, you don't deserve to win."
Without United in the fold, La Liga rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid are the competitions front runners.
The Catalans have beaten United in two of the last three finals, however domestically, Madrid hold the advantage, leading Pep Guardiola's team by 10 points.
While Ferguson admits Jose Mourinho's team are closing in on Barca, he believes his team will eventually be in a position to overcome both.
"Barcelona are the best team in Europe - although Real Madrid are closing the gap on them," he added. "The lead they've got in the league shows that.
"They might be on the same level as them soon, but for the moment Barca have still got that magical ability to play a game that's beyond everyone else. When Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta are on song, they're just unstoppable.
"I think we've got the ambition to compete with Barcelona and Real Madrid and we decided a few years ago to create a structure with young players, like Wayne Rooney and Nani.
"All we've had to do since then is just build things around a few young players. So I don't feel we're that far away from Barcelona and Real Madrid. I'm sure we'll show that soon."
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