Harry Redknapp has suggested Manchester United has gone backwards since selling Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid - but insisted they were still ''an incredible side'' ahead of their clash with Spurs at Old Trafford on Saturday.
• Rooney injury worse than thought
• Fergie pleased with Hernandez
• Birthday boy eyes more glory
• Keegan: No need for Bale to leave
• Man Utd v Spurs preview
• Champion: Spy games
Sir Alex Ferguson's men surrendered the Premier League title to Chelsea last season and, while Spurs have improved, Redknapp believes that the Red Devils have gone the other way since the departures of Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez and the loss of form of Wayne Rooney.
''They are still great, but they're not as good as they were when Ronaldo and Rooney were in the team,'' Redknapp said. ''Don't forget they went to Arsenal last year and ripped them to pieces, so they are still an incredible side. But there's a big difference when you have Ronaldo and Rooney.
He added: ''We're getting better, we're closing the gap and we'll keep improving.''
As well as losing Ronaldo and Tevez and seeing Rooney struggle for fitness and form, United are having to deal with the fact many of their other great players are nearing the end of their careers.
Redknapp said: ''(Ryan) Giggs and (Paul) Scholes - just two unbelievable footballers - (Gary) Neville, they can't go on forever. As good as they are - and they are fantastic still - they're not going to get any better now, are they?
''They may not be in their prime at 35, 36, or whatever, but they are still great players who would grace any team in the Premier League. But it's very hard to keep producing teams like that one with (David) Beckham, (Roy) Keane, Giggs, Scholes, Andy Cole, (Teddy) Sheringham, (Ole Gunnar) Solskjaer, Dwight Yorke.''
Although Spurs have closed the gap on United, they have still failed to beat them in their last 22 meetings and have not won at Old Trafford for almost 21 years. But with Rooney out injured, they will arguably have the marquee players on show in Gareth Bale and Rafael van der Vaart.
Redknapp said of the latter: ''It's a big stage for him, him and Luka Modric, people like that. We've got good players; they've got to go and play and feel confident and make us play.''