Former Manchester United coach Rene Meulensteen has taken a surprising swipe at his old club on the eve of the Manchester derby.

Meulensteen says that his former club’s performances so far this season have not exactly been a true reflection of their current ability.

“At the start of the season, I think a lot of people were thinking United were closer to being back up there than they actually were,” said the Dutchman. “You constantly have to compare them with their biggest competitors and within the Premier League that’s City and probably Chelsea. Then take the best European teams like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, and look at individual for individual. Would you change David De Gea for any of their goalkeepers? No, he is world class. But are there any of the back four you would change for any other players? Yes, there would be. In certain areas, United have got some good quality — but they are not there yet. In the time of Ferguson, we had quality in every single position.”

Meulensteen left Old Trafford in 2013 soon after David Moyes took over and his departure was criticised by those who feel that the club’s stability and continuity was being threatened. Unsurprisingly, that is a narrative the current Kerela Blasters coach agrees with and continues to present today.

“Do not underestimate the strong foundation that Ferguson put into place over 26 years,” he said. “There was stability, continuity. The expectations are still there but the level of football isn’t. That gap with Man City can’t go any bigger because otherwise you are going to get: ‘Oh, here we go again’. And then a lot of speculation starts to surround the club and Mourinho — and it’s not good. That’s what I mean by stability and continuity. Mourinho is pragmatic. He calculates things, he minimises risk. Ferguson was the opposite — he maximises opportunities from the attacking sense. But we didn’t neglect that defensive side at all.”