Former Manchester United striker Andy Cole has claimed that the Red Devils are "still a few years away" from being able to compete for the Premier League title.
United have not won the English title since Sir Alex Ferguson left the club in 2013, while they have finished sixth in two of the last three campaigns.
Last term, the 20-time English champions were 32 points off winners Manchester City and 31 points from second-placed Liverpool, who have started the new campaign in fine form.
Cole has conceded that his former club will not be ready to challenge for "a few years", but the 47-year-old is confident that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side are moving in the right direction.
"I genuinely believe we're still a few years away," Cole, who won five league titles at Old Trafford, told Sky Sports News. "We've just got to keep improving, keep bringing in better players and just try and improve season by season, because the two teams at the top - Liverpool and Manchester City - they're pulling away from everyone.
"I was in a team at Manchester United where we were doing exactly the same thing and in the end, everyone else closed the gap. It's a case of just keep persevering, keep improving season by season and closing the gap."
United, who have taken five points from their four league games this season to sit eighth, are next in action at home to Leicester City on Saturday afternoon.