Ten Hag building the right blocks but too soon to declare Man Utd are back, says Cole

Erik ten Hag is putting in the right building blocks to get Manchester United challenging for the biggest honours once again but it is too soon to declare the Red Devils are back, says Andrew Cole.

United earned their first piece of major silverware in six years by beating Newcastle United 2-0 in Sunday's EFL Cup final at Wembley, with first-half goals from Casemiro and Marcus Rashford enough to seal victory.

It is the latest tick in a first season of positives under Ten Hag, whose side still harbour trophy ambitions in the FA Cup and Europa League, while a Premier League title charge is not out of the question, albeit they trail leaders Arsenal by eight points.

Red Devils legend Cole, part of the famous 1999 treble-winning United side, acknowledged the upward trajectory Ten Hag has the club on but cautioned there is still a long way to go to bridge the gap to rivals Manchester City, who have won the title in four of the past five seasons and are only two points adrift of the Gunners this time around.

"We need to remember a lot of teams [used to] disregard the League Cup, now the League Cup has become a big competition," Cole told Stats Perform.

"I'm very, very happy obviously we won the League Cup and with Ten Hag, but let's put things into perspective here, it's his first season. We've got to be very honest, we know there's a big gap between ourselves and Manchester City.

"We can talk about at the present moment there's only five points difference but if we look at the whole of the last few seasons we've not been close.

"So, I'm not going to look at this year and say 'we're back'. It's fantastic that we've had the opportunity to win the cup, but I think we're still a little bit away. If we keep improving like we are at the moment it won't be too much longer."

Cole, who scored 121 goals in 275 appearances for United, believes the EFL Cup triumph is only part of the process to getting the club challenging regularly for league titles once again.

"I was sitting here watching the game and hoping that this is the start of something new," he added.

"To win the league you've got to be the best team for 38 games. So that's the process, that takes time, that's not going to take you one or two years, it's going to take a little bit longer.

"If you look at for instance, Manchester City, they've won the League Cup numerous times, then they've gone on to win the league numerous times.

"I think he's [Ten Hag] building blocks. If you look at his building blocks, obviously Manchester United are in a position where they've won the League Cup. But let's build on that. Get from now to the end of the season finished in the Champions League spot. And then you go next season.

"I'm not going to sit and say Manchester United are going to win the league next season. I know how difficult that's going to be. Just because we won the League Cup this season I don't believe we're going to win the Premier League next season by 15 points. No, it doesn't quite happen like that, everything is a process."

United have had plenty of false dawns since legendary manager Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, with the likes of Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer all ultimately falling short in their attempts to restore past glories – even though the two former coaches did win trophies.

Cole believes Ten Hag can lean on Ferguson for advice but ultimately step out of his shadow.

"I think with Ten Hag we all know he's got a pinch on the game and how he wants to run the football club, he's very good with discipline," he said.

"From the outside looking in, I could say possibly that's what Ten Hag is doing at Manchester United - leaning on Sir Alex Ferguson for his knowledge.

"But at some stage you're going to look at things and address things in a totally different way. So, I think to take it on board that Sir Alex Ferguson is there and he's going to be there period.

"There's no point to try to fight against him because I think when people try and fight against it then it seems to cause more problems than anything else, it seems like they've got a very good relationship which is only a positive thing."