Manchester United could never have imagined that they would fall so far behind arch-rivals Manchester City, admits former Red Devils midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron.
Back when the Argentine midfielder moved to Old Trafford in 2001, Manchester was very much red.
Sir Alex Ferguson was calling the shots at the Theatre of Dreams and guiding his side to 13 Premier League titles.
The legendary Scot walked away in 2013 and since then there has been a changing of the guard in the North West.
City, bankrolled by billionaire owner Sheikh Mansour, have become the dominant force in England, with an historic domestic treble secured by Pep Guardiola’s side in 2018-19.
United have been left playing catch-up, with a sixth-place finish all they mustered last season, and Veron admits he never thought he would see the day when a blue moon shone brightest.
He told 90min: “Never. That begins to change with the arrival of entrepreneurs... with the arrival of Roman Abramovich.
“Just when I went to Chelsea, it was the first year he was there. No one imagined that City could become what it is today.”
Quizzed on the possible reasons for United’s regression, Veron added: “When you have one person who is in charge for 25 years, the adaptation takes time. Also, the club went private.
“And then a whole generation that marked an era of that United team, with clear rules, with clear conditions have gone.
“Before you had a group that each knew their role, off the field, that was an incredible generation of players, a well-formed group. That is very, very difficult to build.
“The club didn't manage to do a smooth transition. Manchester United is suffering and trying to rebuild.”
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, a former team-mate of Veron, is the man currently charged with the task of returning former glories to Old Trafford.
There is an acceptance that he will need time in which to oversee that job, with the Norwegian still considered to be the best man to guide the club forward.
Veron said of the 1999 Treble winner: “He is there to build, to rebuild as someone who was at the club, who was part of that group.
“He was also part of Ferguson's coaching staff, with Mike Phelan and his former team-mates.
“They will have to work hard to get back to how they were.
“Ole seems to me a coach, a manager who knows the club. He a good person, a very good person and hopefully it goes well. It will not be simple, it will not be easy.”