John Barnes has cooled suggestions that Manchester United can challenge for the Premier League title next season on the back of an improved run of form.
United are on a 15-game unbeaten run after hammering Brighton in midweek and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes they can go unbeaten until the end of the season.
Solskjaer has guided United into fifth place in the Premier League and Leicester’s recent implosion has handed them a real hope of a finish as high as third.
However, they remain 14 points behind Man City and a huge 34 points behind champions Liverpool and former Reds midfielder Barnes says they should not get “carried away”.
Barnes told BonusCodeBets: “Manchester United should always have big aspirations, because they are Manchester United. But they are fifth in the league, that’s a reality.
“Currently, they’re nowhere near Liverpool or Manchester City. They could potentially be competitive, but the fact that Bruno Fernandes has come in and done well, it isn’t suddenly going to be all be a quick fix for Manchester United.
“It’s silly to say they’re going to challenge next year, they’ve got great potential and have had a great 14 games, which is good for Manchester United. But the fact is, there’s a lot of work to do and I don’t want to get carried away in thinking that suddenly, Manchester United are going to be challenging next year.”
Barnes acknowledges that the arrival of Fernandes from Sporting has lifted United, but says they still have a long way to go.
“They’ve bought a good player, they’ve got a good team, and if the harmony is right and the togetherness is there, then they can be competitive, but they are still so far behind Liverpool,” added Barnes.
“They’ve only won five games away from home and when they were where they were, people never thought about or mentioned as title contenders, they were considered a bad team.
“I never get carried away positively or negatively, you look at the situation and they’ve done really well in the last 14 games. The future does look bright for them, we’ll just have to wait and see whether they can continue that that consistency.”
Greenwood does not need pressure
Barnes has also urged United to be cautious with talented youngster Mason Greenwood, although Solskjaer has again talked up the talented young forward.
“Only the sky’s the limit. It’s up to him. He knows what he should do, can do and must do to keep on playing, but that’ll be between us,” said Solskjaer at his Friday news conference after his superb showing against Brighton this week.
“Mason is way ahead of what I was when I was 18, 19, that’s for sure.
“He’s got a knack of scoring goals. I don’t really want to say anything different because it’s natural for him and it was what I felt I could do well as well.
“He’s a brilliant boy to work with. He keeps on learning, keeps on making better and better decisions.”
But Barnes says United need to ease the pressure on the 18-year-old.
Barnes added: “As with all young players, you have to give them time to develop because they’ve got great potential and Greenood has got the same.
“But we’ve seen it in the past with young players that have too pressure put on them to say how great they are, when really, they aren’t great yet. They (young players) can be great, and if handled right with the right humility, then of course they can go on to achieve their true potential.
“Greenwood has got great potential, but I wouldn’t want to put pressure on him to say that he is going to be the next Robin Van Persie. For Manchester United’s sake, let’s hope he can keep developing the way he currently has been, but we should be careful about what we say and not get carried away.”