Andy Cole says he understands Manchester United's reluctance to spend "crazy money" on Jadon Sancho, with his £109 million ($139m) price tag deemed too high "in this current climate".
United's well-documented pursuit of Sancho has been the longest-running transfer story of the summer, and it looks highly likely to rumble on until the market closes on October 5 unless a breakthrough in negotiations is made.
The German outfit have made it clear from the outset that they will not sanction a prized asset's departure for less than €120m (£110m/$140m), but the Red Devils are not prepared to pay the full amount upfront.
Goal has reported that Sancho has agreed on personal terms with United through his agent, but Dortmund have publicly declared that he will be staying put for at least one more season on several occasions.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has only been able to add one other player to his ranks so far this summer, with Donny van de Beek moving to Old Trafford from Ajax for £35 million ($45m).
And Cole has told Goal that the Red Devils are now having to compete with Liverpool and Manchester City for new signings - a tall order given the recent success of the club's two major rivals.
The former England striker has now warned that the Red Devils would be unwise to fork out large transfer fees due to the financial uncertainty caused by the coronavirus crisis, which has seen top clubs across Europe, including Real Madrid, tighten the purse strings.
Asked whether United should meet Dortmund's valuation of Sancho, the treble winner told the PA Agency : “That is big money, crazy money.
“You don’t know when punters are going to be allowed back into the stadiums. Every club must be losing absolute fortunes.
“When you look at a team like Real Madrid spending no money, what does that tell you? They’ve done no business, so you know something is wrong with football.
“Looking at it from outside, I think Man United are saying ‘we are not going to spend money willy-nilly. If the right individual comes in at the right price, yeah, we’ll do it’. But £109m, in this current climate?”
Cole does acknowledge that Solskjaer's squad is still in need of some surgery, with it his belief that two key positions must be strengthened to close the gap on Liverpool and City.
“I know they’re trying to bring in players that are going to improve the squad, and rightly so," he said.
“Centre-half, centre-forward – I look at those two positions. They are two paramount positions in your team. The midfield area for me is now sorted, there is enough creativity in there to play as well as any midfield in the Premier League, so I think those [other] areas [need strengthening].”
Cole also discussed the development of academy graduate Mason Greenwood, who made headlines recently for being sent home from England's national team squad after breaching coronavirus social distancing protocols in Iceland.
The 18-year-old scored 17 goals in all competitions during a breakout 2019-20 campaign, and a club legend wants to see the striker offered greater protection as he matures and hones his craft.
“He has a big future in the game for me,” Cole added. "And if we’re prepared just to let him play and stop talking about his misfortunes, I think we’ll get the best out of him.
"Because when we continue to speak about his misfortunes, I think that is when he could have a few problems, worrying about the perception of him.”