Former Manchester United defender David May believes the Reds can one day be the equal of their arch-rivals City now that Erik Ten Hag is in charge.

"I certainly think United are going the right way but what’s going on across the other side of Manchester is sensational, it really is. They are an absolute machine.

"But Pep had time and was given money so why can’t United do the same? Are they close to Manchester City right now? No, nowhere near.

"But another window, another season, we can eventually get there and I do think Ten Hag is the perfect manager to do that, I really do."

Having twice won the league at Old Trafford during the club’s Nineties heyday, May went on to front their television channel and podcast in retirement, all of which makes him an authority worth listening to when it comes to United’s fortunes.

So, what exactly has he seen during the Dutchman’s opening months at the helm to suspect that the good times may be returning after several seasons of disappointment?

David May on Ten Hag

"Running, sprinting and work-rate have all improved. Under Rangnick that was a no-no; that never happened. I also think there is a discipline he’s brought to the team.

"Everybody knows how we want to play and how we want to press and if you don’t do that, you don’t play. He’s brought that mentality to the team that has been missing for four or five years.

"I would like to see more goals and more opportunities made and we can get more out of Jadon Sancho. Keeping clean sheets is imperative too because at the other end United will score.

"But United fans have seen progress. Over the last two or three seasons it’s not been the best football to watch at times, but Ten Hag has come in and steadied the ship and got people playing, and we’re now seeing the best of those players."

From the players in question, naturally May focuses first on the centre-backs, it being the position where he made 64 Premier League appearances for the Reds with distinction.

It’s an impressive tally given that often he was back-up to one of the club’s greatest ever defensive partnerships in Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister and May is reminded of the pair presently when watching Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane.

"I know that Varane got injured at the weekend, but the partnership between him and Martinez is outstanding. It really is. You can see they have an understanding.

"Martinez reminds me of Brucey, who would run through a brick wall, but he loves to get on the ball as well. He’s not afraid of passing the ball. There are similarities too with Vidic and Rio, with Martinez like Vidic, and Varane the Rolls-Royce.

"It’s a perfect partnership and I just love the way Martinez plays. He seems to look after everybody. If someone gets kicked, he’s in there, and he’s not afraid to put his foot in. You can see that. He’s aggressive and that’s infectious. He’s been fantastic."

Further forward, midfield has too regularly been a problem area for United, that was until Christian Eriksen and Casemiro were signed last summer.

What have their contrasting styles brought to the Old Trafford centre-circle that was previously so sorely lacking?

"Composure, vision and experience. Eriksen can receive the ball anywhere, it doesn’t matter to him. Whereas Casemiro has all the experience of winning things.

Christian Eriksen Erik ten Hag

"We haven’t had that for some time, two players that can dictate play. Eriksen in particular has been fantastic, especially after what he’s been through as well – god bless him, to come back from something like that is special - and to think that we got him on a free."

Another new recruit has also hit the ground running, in the form of Brazilian winger Antony. Mention of his confidence prompts a laugh from May, who views that to be a big part of the 22-year-old’s make-up.

"Antony is arrogant. You can see by the way he plays and struts around. The way he brings the full-back onto him and says, ‘come on then, let’s have a go’.

"If there is one fault about him it’s that he needs to work on his right foot. Because he gets into so many brilliant positions where it would be easier to actually use his right foot.

"He’s still a young kid but the money United paid for him, and how much Ten Hag wanted him, just goes to show what a player he is, and what a great player he’s going to be. He gets fans on the edge of their seats and we’ve not had that for a long time."

Of course, it’s not all wine and roses just now, with the ongoing Cristiano Ronaldo soap opera proving to be a distraction the Reds could well do without.

May concedes that his ex-team-mate is inevitably heading for the exit door and furthermore will need to be replaced sooner, rather than later.

"We need a centre-forward because Ronaldo will almost certainly leave. But who? With a World Cup coming up, you just don’t know what’s out there. There could be a surprise package."

Before we dig down into possible names however, the imminent tournament in Qatar prompts another concern.

"The World Cup is coming at the worst possible time for United. They’re just getting some momentum going forward.

"Other teams will be looking forward to the World Cup and a chance to reset but it’s a bad time for us as we’re just starting to see Ten Hag’s philosophy coming through."

Still, these are details that can be navigated and made small. For May, the big picture at the club that he loves is getting brighter all the time. 

*Credit for all of the photos in this article belongs to AP Photo*

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