Jose Mourinho considers Manchester United to be “a giant” but admits the finances at once smaller clubs has shifted the balance of power.
The Red Devils remain the most successful team in English football, with Sir Alex Ferguson having overseen 13 Premier League title wins and two Champions League successes during his legendary reign.
The battle for domestic dominance has, however, become keenly-contested following the arrival of billionaire owners at clubs such as Chelsea and Manchester City – who had gone a long time without regular success prior to receiving sizeable investment – while the likes of Ligue 1 champions Monaco have benefited on the continent.
Mourinho remains convinced that he can help to push United back to the summit once more, but concedes that the task is more difficult than it once was.
“The club will always be a giant but our job is to try to bring the football team back to that stature,” he told UEFA’s official website ahead of a Super Cup clash with Real Madrid.
“That's something really difficult these days: before, the giants were the powerful ones economically, and now there are small clubs in terms of prestige and history who are giants economically. That changes absolutely everything.
“But my feeling is that I want the team to be on a par with the club's history, which is something I've been lucky enough to feel at every club: there was the same kind of feeling at Inter and Real Madrid.
“This is where we want to be. And obviously we'll improve the team and try to be at that level.”
Mourinho was able to deliver three trophies for United in his debut campaign, while securing a return to Champions League competition.
He is not setting any lofty targets as the Red Devils prepare to rejoin the elite, with the Portuguese preferring to take things one step at a time.
He added: “We are new to the competition.
“It's absolutely true that Manchester United are one of the top three football clubs in the world, no doubt about it, but the football club is one thing and the team's credentials going into a competition are another thing entirely.
“So we have a giant on our chest, one which is really heavy, but we don't compare our potential to the biggest clubs in Europe right now. So we'll take it step by step and be humble.
“The first step is to try to finish in the top three. If we manage that, we'll try to finish in the top two. Then, when you are in the Champions League last-16 draw, anything can happen.”
United will discover their group stage opponents when the draw is made on August 24.