Paul Scholes has written off Louis van Gaal's hopes of winning the Premier League title in his first year as Manchester United manager, after picking Manchester City or Chelsea to finish the upcoming season as champions.
United legend Scholes backed Van Gaal to revive United's fortunes after their seventh-place finish last May, but he cannot see the experienced Dutchman bringing the biggest prize in English football back to Old Trafford straight away.
"I think the title is between City and Chelsea, they've both made decent signings. The next two places are between United, Liverpool and Arsenal," said the 11-time Premier League winner Scholes, in quotes appearing in the Daily Mirror.
"I just worry that City and Chelsea have a bit too much for them. United will be looking for a better season than last season, and that shouldn't be too difficult. It was a big blip last year, disappointing.
"The first six games look favourable and if they can be near or top of the league at the end of those six then take it from there, but you have to remember the players they've lost. Rio [Ferdinand], [Nemanja] Vidic, [Patrice] Evra, [Ryan] Giggs. Massive players who have won 30 titles between them."
Scholes backed Phil Jones, Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling to grasp their chance in a revamped United defensive lineup, but he suspects Van Gaal is frustrated by the lack of transfer activity following the arrivals of Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw earlier in the summer.
"I'm sure he [Van Gaal] would have liked to have signed more players," Scholes added. "He's not managed to do that yet. Are the players out there available? The areas they need, in midfield, is an area where I thought they might have bought a couple of players.
"Toni Kroos goes [from Bayern Munich to Real Madrid] for 20 million pounds and Cesc Fabregas to Chelsea. I thought they would have been in for those type of players, but it doesn't look like they were. If they were, they chose to go elsewhere.
"It's not because United are not in the Champions League. People still want to play for Manchester United. It's huge.
"I still think the players they have are good enough, it's whether they can get their confidence back. Jones, Evans and Smalling have all been there to win leagues, but now they really have to step up."
Scholes went to suggest Van Gaal strikes him as being a little eccentric, as he suggested the veteran Dutchman will instill belief in United after their trouble campaign under David Moyes last season.
Free to play: ESPN FC Premier League fantasy
- Q&A: Why you need to reselect your fantasy squad
- Sign up for our new game and challenge your friends
- How to play the game -- fantasy rules in full
- Transfers: Check out the latest Premier League moves
- Fantasy Forum: Discuss your team and tactics
"From what I've seen in preseason he looks a bit mad to me. He's a bit like a mad genius -- he looks a bit crazy," added Scholes.
"I think he's brought a bit of fear into the players, which is no bad thing. I played for 20 years for Sir Alex Ferguson and he could be a scary man. Sometimes fear can bring performances out from you.
"Players will know where they stand, which is what you want. You knew where you stood with Sir Alex Ferguson, straight from what you'd done on the Saturday. If you'd done well he'd pat you on the back and if you hadn't you probably wouldn't be playing the next week.
"This manager has great experience with proper clubs and has been successful. Hopefully he can bring a bit of that to us."