Andy Cole warns Manchester United face a tough task in convincing the likes of Jadon Sancho to push for a move to Old Trafford while Liverpool and Manchester City are the tog dogs in the Premier League.
United finished third in the League last season, but have so far only signed Donny van de Beek in the summer transfer window as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side juggle domestic and Champions League football.
A 3-1 home defeat to Crystal Palace in their first League game of 2020/21 suggests United have plenty of work to do to mount a credible title challenge, while the club's transfer pursuit of Sancho has stalled.
United are adamant they will not pay Borussia Dortmund's £108million asking price for the England international given the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic, but have yet to move on to other targets to fill the right flank.
Former United striker Cole doubts Sancho is desperate to move to United given he has not publicly pushed for a move, and believes the club's transfer strategy has been haphazard in recent years.
"Of course fresh faces change things but I look at where we’ve been over the past few years and we’ve got to a stage where we’re making signings that wouldn’t make us any better," he told Goal.
"Loads of players have been brought in but in the end the majority of players are no longer at the club , so you ask yourself the question 'are we buying the right players?' Because it’s not worked out for whatever reason.
"Sancho hasn’t made any fuss about trying to force a move to United. If he was doing that I would turn around and think this kid really fancies going.
"From the outside looking in it looks like he thinks 'yeah, I will get on with things at Dortmund, I’m not really fussed about it.' So does he really want to come?
"Previously when people have wanted to come, the player has said 'I want to go.' We’ve got two weeks left of the window and all this time [up to now] nothing has happened. He’s not trying to push it."
United have not won the League title since Sir Alex Ferguson left Old Trafford in 2013, with north-west rivals Liverpool and Man City dominating English football of late.
Cole feels United are playing a dangerous game in targeting signings who are also of interest to Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola, adding: "To try and close the gap on Liverpool and Manchester City they are going to have to stop buying to improve themselves.
"At the moment they’re vying for the same type of players. It’s a double-edged sword. When Manchester United were dominating all the best players wanted to come to Man United and they wanted to come for a reason, because they had the opportunity of winning and that’s what it’s about.
"When you don’t have the opportunity to win you’re not going to say you will go to Man United if Liverpool or Man City are interested. Instead, you’re going to go to one of those clubs where you can win things.
"That’s the toughest sell for Ole at the moment... to convince players at the peak of their playing career to join a club and a project that will take two or three years, you’ve got to be a very good salesman."