The former Red Devils striker is not convinced that a challenge for the crown can be staged, with a top-four finish still the ultimate target
The Norwegian has said, heading into the hectic festive fixture list: “This period is going to be vital and it’ll be easier for me to answer around that time – I’d be disappointed if the players didn’t think we can put a challenge up.
“At the moment, anything goes in the league. There’s different reasons for different results. I feel we’re getting better but we have to improve quite a bit to take that next step as well.”
Cole, meanwhile, who captured five crowns during his six-year spell at Old Trafford, is not convinced that United can find the consistency required to finish at the summit.
The former Red Devils frontman told The Target Men Podcast, with Solskjaer needing to make Champions League qualification his top priority: “Manchester United are definitely not contenders for winning the Premier League this season.
“I still think the club are a few years away from realistically competing to win the Premier League.
“I think the priority for Manchester United at the moment is to qualify for the Champions League and to hope to have a good cup run in a domestic competition.
“The pressure really is on for Manchester United to finish in the top four and qualify for the Champions League on a consistent basis again, which is maybe hard to say after the years of success with Sir Alex Ferguson.
“Qualifying for the Champions League has to become the norm and the minimal expectation again before the club can move forwards.
“The best players want to play in the Champions League and without that consistency, there’s not enough clarity to build a squad signing the best players and keeping the best players.
“It’s been one step forwards and two steps back in recent years.”
The Red Devils, who toasted their last title triumph in 2013 as Sir Alex Ferguson headed into retirement, will be back in action on Thursday when they take in a trip to struggling Sheffield United.