Owen Hargreaves expects his former club Manchester United to struggle on their UEFA Champions League return next season due to the gulf in class with the competition’s elite sides.
Louis van Gaal guided United back to a seat at European football’s top table after a one-year absence as they finished fourth in the Premier League in 2014-15, a marked improvement from David Moyes’ ill-fated spell in charge.
United remain a work in progress under the Dutchman and are expected to spend big in the close-season, but Hargreaves is quick to dismiss any chances of rapid change in continental fortunes.
“I don’t think Manchester United are ready to compete for a Champions League title,” BT Sport pundit Hargreaves told Perform.
“If you look at Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Barcelona – realistically I don’t think they are.
“I’m sure the fans would love to get back to those days when they were in the Champions League semi-finals virtually every year and not only winning the league, but winning it beautifully as well.”
United striker Robin van Persie boldly stated this week that the club intend on spending £200million in order to bridge the gap between themselves and champions Chelsea, who finished 17 points clear of Van Gaal’s men.
Even with a squad overhaul, Hargreaves – who won the league and Champions League with United – is unsure whether his old club can challenge for the title.
He added: “As excited as you are that there is £200million to spend potentially, I am still not 100 per cent sure how the team is going to look. Chelsea is by far the best team in the country.
“They can go and get players that they specifically need. I think Manchester United need quite a lot.”