Manchester United and Liverpool too good for Europa League - Paul Ince
Paul Ince does not think the Europa League is the level at which Manchester United and Liverpool should be competing ahead of the two sides' meeting on Thursday -- but he believes that United will never get back to the way they used to play.
Ince was at United from 1989 to 1995 and later played for Liverpool from 1997 to 1999.
The former England midfielder tasted success in Europe with United when he played in the 1991 European Cup Winners' Cup final as they defeated Barcelona 2-1.
Ince told the Irish Independent: "I wouldn't say it's their level when you look at the way Liverpool are transforming under [Jurgen] Klopp. They seem to be playing a lot better football.
"With Manchester United, at the start of the season under [Louis] van Gaal, it wasn't great. The football was poor. It looked like the players didn't know what they were doing and the fans were venting their frustrations.
"When you see how they were then, to how they are now, they seem to have released their shackles. They seem to play with a lot more freedom, a lot more belief and faith in what Van Gaal is trying to get them to do."
Despite Ince's belief that United have been showing more fluency in recent months, he still does not feel they will reach the levels of the side he played in, which included such players as Eric Cantona and Ryan Giggs.
"The Man United way is about attacking," Ince said. "It is about creating chances, scoring goals. It is about having that presence. When we played, we could beat most teams by just lining up in the tunnel. The opposing team would look at you and go, 'ooh, I don't fancy it today.'
"We would win most games just because we were Manchester United. Now teams think they can go to Old Trafford and pick up something. That should never be the case. They [Man United] are never going to get back to where they were because the game has changed and formations have changed."
United are still targeting qualification for the Champions League this season, either through finishing in the Premier League's top four or winning the Europa League.
Attempting to meet those demands has put Van Gaal's position as manager under scrutiny.
When asked about Giggs's suitability to succeed the Dutchman in charge, former Blackburn and MK Dons boss Ince said: "For Ryan, it's a little bit early. He had a taste of it and he did OK. But, for someone like Ryan, he needs to go and learn his trade, maybe in League One or the Championship.
"Don't get me wrong -- if Man United give it to him, I'm not saying he can't do the job. But it's a massive club, Man United. It's a great club. I just think you need to have someone with that experience to win things -- as a manager, not as a player.
"If Van Gaal wins the two trophies [FA Cup and Europa League], there's no reason why he shouldn't continue."
Arindam is ESPN FC's Manchester United correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @ARejSport.