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Andy Cole puts a timescale on Manchester United’s return to the top

Treble-winner insists ten hag must get full three-year term to rebuild the club

Andy Cole© AFP via Getty Images

Cameron BlackSunday World

Former Manchester United striker Andy Cole has admitted he struggles to watch his former club after their fall from grace in English football.

Even after their 2-1 win at Everton on Sunday night, Cole believes United are a long way from competing for the Premier League title.

There have been signs of improvement under new manager Erik ten Hag, but Cole fears his former club are some way short of title contention.

"As an ex-player, knowing what the club was all about when I was there, I get really disappointed when I watch this United team,” said Cole, speaking at a Gambling.com event in London.

“We are all struggling to find excuses or explain what has happened and let’s be honest here, this season was a very bitter pill to swallow.

"Maybe it shouldn't have such a negative effect on me, but unfortunately it is hard for us to accept what has happened, I'm not going to lie. Then I look at the teams at the top and United could not be further away from them.

"City have been building their squad for years and they are getting success now after those years of work.

"You remember that Jurgen Klopp didn't win anything for a few years at Liverpool and then the trophies started rolling in.

"It was the same story for Alex Ferguson when he started at United, but there is no guarantee this new manager will be the one to get it right."

When asked how long it will take for United to get back to the top, Cole admitted that United fans need to be realistic as he stated: “People need to stop wearing blindfolds and thinking Ten Hag will come in, sign a few players and everything will be okay again.

"That isn't how football works. Manchester United finished sixth this season and they were lucky to finish sixth. They were a long way from being good enough and the performances time and again showed that.

"Then you look at the teams at the top of the table and they are light years ahead. I don't want to know how many points behind Manchester City and Liverpool they were in the end, but it was a lot, and that gap is real. It can't be closed quickly.

"Look at Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal... they are all years away from competing with the top two and United are in that boat as well.

"If it was only going to take a couple of transfer windows to get close to City, the other teams would not be 20 and 30 points behind them this season."

With Ten Hag leading United to five wins in their last six games, signs of improvement have been shown, especially with the contributions from the likes of Christian Eriksen and Antony, but Cole’s comments have reminded the fans to be realistic with the current squad and their expectations.

Ten Hag (has just started his role at United after being handed a three-year contract to succeed in a job that has proved to be beyond some of the game’s modern managerial greats.

Now Cole has called for the club’s fans to show patience with Ten Hag as he aims to complete an overhaul that will be as comprehensive as any undertaken by a Manchester United manager.

“He needs to be given time and money to try and get the job done, but anyone who thinks this is a quick fix are kidding themselves,” he added.

“We have to be honest and say the target next season is top four and I would never sit here and try to pretend we are not years away from competing with them.

“This new manager needs to be backed and that means giving him the duration of his contract. Give him three years, let’s see what he can do and we have to accept there will be some pain along the way.

“If it’s not working in a few months, changing again might not be the answer. The club have backed Erik ten Hag to do the job, so let’s give him the time to see if he is the right choice.

“He will bring in his own players and it is a transitional period again, which has been a familiar story for United in recent years.

“Every time you change managers, a new guy comes in with fresh ideas and a new list of players he wants. That creates upheaval and success never comes quickly on that scenario.”

Cole’s brutal verdict on United will send a shiver down the spine of their supporters, but it is hard to argue with any element of his verdict.

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