With Manchester United still struggling experienced manager Louis Van Gaal has insisted that he needs three seasons to transform the Red Devils back into the European super-club they once were during Sir Alex Ferguson's reign. But will they miss out on Champions League football for a second successive season?
Since Ferguson's departure the red half of Manchester have struggled to compete with their bitter rivals Manchester City, or indeed any other club in the so-called big four. With Southampton now seemingly in the Champions League race United have one more club to compete with for one of those coveted spots.
When Van Gaal first arrived it seemed to be a seamless transition for the world-renowned Dutchman. In a U.S Tour pre-season tournament United triumphed over European giants Real Madrid 3-1, and then did the same to Premier League rivals Liverpool to put down a marker ahead of the new campaign.
Struggles there for all to see
However since then United have struggled, succumbing to an opening-day home defeat to Garry Monk's Swansea City, who recently beat another member of the 'big four' in Arsenal at the weekend.
United's last outing ended in a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace, however the Red Devils hardly put in a convincing performance. They had mountains of possession, but failed to create any real openings in a well-organised Palace defence until a magnificent Juan Mata strike finally broke the deadlock.
Quality of the players clearly no excuse
Despite the win, Van Gaal must still be disappointed that his team struggled to beat a team they would have trounced over in the Ferguson era. However, by this stage Van Gaal and United are likely to be grateful for any points they can get.
United's poor performances this season has nothing to do with the quality of the players; this squad is arguably much better than the one Ferguson had during his 2012/13 league triumph.
The likes of Radamel Falcao, Angel di Maria and Ander Herrera all now grace Old Trafford, and it seems like a matter of gelling together.
Madrid comparisons have some weight
You could compare the performance of United this season to that of Real Madrid at the start of the season; Los Blancos, too suffered losses to United in pre-season and a loss to Real Sociedad before their side fully gelled. Only, Madrid have gelled together far faster than United.
However they are still Manchester United, a big name with an even bigger history. So it seems like only a matter of time before they go back to their winning ways. For now, however, you can count Manchester United out of the title race for the next few seasons.
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