Rio Ferdinand believes Michael Carrick is “crucial” to the Manchester United cause, while the addition of “world-class superstars” last summer has got Jose Mourinho carrying the club in the right direction.
The former Red Devils defender, who won six Premier League titles and the Champions League during his time at Old Trafford, believes it is only a matter of time before the club are competing for the grandest of prizes once more.
United got back on the trophy trail last season, as they lifted the FA Cup under Louis van Gaal, and are currently competing on four fronts in 2016-17.
A slow start has left them with work to do in the English top-flight, but Ferdinand feels a top four finish would be a positive step forward.
Ferdinand told the club’s official website: “What [Mourinho] needed to do was find a formation and find the personnel to fit it. He’s come across it, and the real crux of that was within the football club when he got there, and that’s Michael Carrick.
“I said it under Louis van Gaal and David Moyes: Michael is so crucial to the football team.
“It’s obvious how good he is on the ball, but I think more important is how he is defensively. The roving eye just looking for an entertaining football match probably won’t see it, but in terms of defensive positions and shielding the back four, he’s one of the best I’ve played with. I think he’s the best around at the moment.”
The former England international added: "Another key to United’s improvement has been the form and the star quality of the summer signings.
“Pogba, Mkhitaryan and Ibrahimovic are world-class superstars. We’re now back into signing world-class players.
“With Mourinho, I just think it’s a case of how long it’s going to take him to get things how he wants them.
“I think, looking at the run we’re on now, finishing in the top four is definitely something we can look at. Anything beyond that would be great but I’m not looking any further than getting back into the Champions League, consolidating and moving on from there.”
United will face another stern test of their top four credentials in their next outing, with title hopefuls Liverpool due to visit Old Trafford on Sunday.