Paul Ince believes Jose Mourinho is still playing catch up at Manchester United after the Louis Van Gaal era sent the club backwards.
Ince spent six seasons with United from 1989 to 1995, winning the Premier League twice, but says Mourinho’s side are a way off title contention, with the Portuguese hamstrung from the start.
Given his own managerial experiences, Ince, now a television pundit, declined to add to the calls for Mourinho to leave Old Trafford.
Instead he sympathised with the task Mourinho faces, even in his third season at United.
“It’s tough on Mourinho, because he came in off the back of David Moyes and Van Gaal,” Ince, a Paddy Power ambassador, told Press Association Sport.
“Under Van Gaal they went back big time, they went back two years.
“While Man United were going back, Manchester City, Tottenham, Liverpool, they were going forwards.
“He had to try to get them up to try just to compete with those teams and it’s been a tough time for him.”
United, who won the 2016 FA Cup under Van Gaal, are sixth in the Premier League, eight points behind fourth-placed Chelsea, ahead of Sunday’s clash with leaders Liverpool at Anfield.
Ince believes United’s main concern for now is Champions League qualification.
“Are we talking about a case where Man United might be struggling year after year to make the top four?” Ince added.
“Only one team are going to win the league. Man United are not going to win the league.
“They’ve got to try to win a cup and they’ve got to try to finish in the top four, which is going to be a tough ask for them.”
Ince left Old Trafford for a two-year stint with Inter Milan before returning to England with Liverpool.
The 51-year-old former England captain reckons Jurgen Klopp’s men are capable of ending their 29-year wait for the championship title this season. The Reds are top of the table, one point ahead of holders City, with 16 matches played.
Ince added: “The fans hoped they could win the title, now Klopp’s got a team the fans believe can win the title. And that’s a big difference.
“They’re blowing teams away. The more they keep playing this way and getting those results the more the belief will come.
“The favourites are City, but Liverpool are right on their shoulders and they are competing.
“They’ve got all the ingredients to be Premier League winners.”
Ince is enjoying life as a pundit, but admits he yearns to return to management.
Short stints with Blackburn and Blackpool, the last team he managed in 2013-14, have not dented Ince’s confidence after successful spells with Macclesfield and MK Dons.
He added: “I’ve got something I enjoy doing the BBC and BT. It keeps me in the game, it gives me a bit of free time and it fits in well. Less stressful.
“I have spoken to a few people and it’s just not been right.
“But management’s in my blood. It will never go away and I’m still only 51. I’ve got plenty of time.”
– Paul Ince is a Paddy Power ambassador, to read more go to news.paddypower.com