ANDY Cole has issued a stern warning to Manchester United and placed an alarming timeline on their hopes of returning to the winner’s circle.
Nited’s disastrous season ended with a chaotic last-day defeat at Crystal Palace last month, ensuring the most successful club of the Premier League era sank to a desperate new low.
Dutch manager Erik ten Hag has been given the task of reviving United after joining from Ajax, but Cole told The Sunday World in an exclusive interview that it will be “many, many years” before his former club is a challenge for the game. top honors once again.
Speaking during a Bookmakers.com event in LondonCole described a bleak future for the club he helped lead to the top of the game by leading their historic Treble campaign in 1999.
“How long will it be before Manchester United are competitive again? It will take years and I worry how long it will take,” Cole began, speaking with real emotion as he summed up the leaves his former club.
“It won’t be resolved in one or two transfer windows, no chance. This team’s problems run so deep now that it will take much longer than that.
“People have to stop wearing headbands and thinking that this new manager Erik ten Hag is going to come along, sign a few players and everything will be fine again.
“That’s not how football works. Manchester United finished sixth this season and they were lucky to finish sixth. They were nowhere near good enough and the performances showed that time and time again.
“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 at the end, but it was a lot and that gap is It cannot be closed quickly.
“Look at Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal, West Ham… they’re all years away from competing with the top two and United are in that boat too.
“If it only took a few transfer windows to get closer to City and Liverpool, the other teams wouldn’t be 20 and 30 points behind this season.”
Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata are among the expensive flops who have already confirmed they are leaving United this summer and although Ten Hag has ambitious plans in the transfer market, bringing top players to United will not be easy.
Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong (left) is high on Ten Hag’s wishlist, but the Dutch midfielder he worked with at Ajax has already said publicly he would rather stay with his current club than moving to United.
And that could be a recurring problem for Ten Hag as he begins a huge job of rebuilding at United, with top players reluctant to join a club in terminal decline since Alex Ferguson retired as manager in 2013.
Cole openly admits he struggled to watch United in the season which ended with the club collecting their lowest points tally in the Premier League era – and he suggests Ten Hag should have the length of his three-year contract to end United’s woes.
“We all struggle to find excuses or explain what happened and let’s be honest here, this season has been a very bitter pill to swallow,” he continued.
“As a former player, knowing what the club was like when I was there, I’m really disappointed when I look at this United team.
“Maybe it shouldn’t have such a negative effect on me, but unfortunately it’s hard for us to accept what happened, I’m not going to lie. Then I look at the teams at the top and United couldn’t be further from them.
“City and Liverpool have been building their teams for years and they are achieving success now after those years of hard work.
“You remember Jurgen Klopp didn’t win anything for a few years at Liverpool and then the trophies started coming.
“It was the same story for Alex Ferguson when he started at United, but there’s no guarantee this new manager will be the one to get it right.”
Ten Hag (inset) has just started his role at United after being handed a three-year deal to succeed in a job that has proven beyond some of the game’s greatest modern managers.
Now Cole has called on the club’s fans to be patient with Ten Hag as he aims to complete an overhaul that will be as comprehensive as that undertaken by a Manchester United manager.
“You have to give it time and money to try and get the job done, but anyone who thinks it’s a quick fix is wrong,” he added.
“We have to be honest and say the target for next season is the top four and I would never sit here and try to pretend we’re not years away from competing with them.
“This new manager needs to be supported and that means giving him the length of his contract. Give him three years, let’s see what he can do and we have to accept that there will be pain along the way.
“If it doesn’t work in a few months, changing again might not be the answer. The club have backed Erik ten Hag to get the job done, so let’s give him time to see if he’s the right choice.
“He will bring in his own players and it’s a period of transition again, which has been a familiar story for United in recent years.
“Every time you change managers, a new guy comes in with new ideas and a new roster of players he wants. It creates upheaval and success never comes quickly in this scenario.”
Cole’s stark verdict on United will send shivers down their spines, but it’s hard to argue with any element of his verdict.
Born: October 15, 1971 in Nottingham
Played for: Arsenal, Bristol City, Newcastle, Manchester United, Blackburn, Fulham, Manchester City, Portsmouth, Sunderland, Nottingham Forest
nCole played one league game for Arsenal and was sold to Bristol City in 1992.
nHe scored 55 goals in 70 games for Newcastle and moved to Man United in 1995.
nCole scored 121 goals for United, winning five Premier League titles, two FA Cups and was part of their Treble-winning side in 1999.
* The former striker sits third in the Premier League’s all-time goalscoring charts with 187 goals.
It won’t be settled in a transfer window or two, no chance. The problems are so deep.