Manchester United are already facing an “uphill battle”, says Edwin van der Sar, with the 2018-19 campaign shaping up to be a “difficult year”.
The Red Devils were expected to mount a serious challenge for the Premier League title in what is Jose Mourinho’s third season at the helm.
They have, however, stumbled out of the blocks to make their worst start in 26 years, with back-to-back defeats suffered against Brighton and Tottenham.
A positive result away at Burnley on Sunday is now a must, with pressure building on Mourinho despite his claims to still being “one of the greatest managers in the world”.
Former goalkeeper Van der Sar fears there may be more testing times to come for those at Old Trafford, telling reporters at the Champions League group stage draw in Monaco: "Last year, there was a very big gap [to Manchester City] and this year they've started badly, losing two of their first three games.
"It will be an uphill battle. You have so many strong teams in the Premier League.
"It is going to be difficult this year."
Van der Sar rarely endured such struggles during his time with United, winning four Premier League titles, the League Cup, Champions League and Club World Cup during a glittering six-year spell.
Another former favourite who enjoyed a trophy-laden stint at Old Trafford during the club’s heyday is David Beckham, with the ex-England captain among those to have been honoured by UEFA in midweek.
Van der Sar never got the chance to play alongside an iconic No. 7 from United’s past, but still holds a modern day legend in the highest regard.
He said of Beckham, who was awarded the UEFA President’s Award: "I know him well, I never played with him but I've met him on several occasions.
"He is a nice guy - his work on the pitch, everybody knows that, but he also does a lot of good things for charity.
"We played a couple of years ago in a charity match at Manchester for his foundation.
“He is a genuine nice guy and it is a really great achievement for him."