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Liverpool have recently been crowned English league champions for the first time in 30 years, leaving their rivals at Old Trafford with plenty of catching up to do.
However, United have impressed in the second half of this season under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, going 14 games unbeaten and looking dangerous largely thanks to the good form of January signing Bruno Fernandes.
This has led to hope among United fans that they can seriously challenge for the Premier League title next season. However, this has been shot down by former England international Barnes, who says that in spite of positivity recently returning to Manchester, a lot more work is required.
Barnes told BonusCodeBets: “Manchester United should always have big aspirations, because they are Manchester United - but they are fifth in the league, that's a reality.
"Currently, they're nowhere near Liverpool or Manchester City. They could potentially be competitive, but the fact that Bruno Fernandes has come in and done well, it isn't suddenly going to all be a quick fix.
“It’s silly to say they're going to challenge next year, they've got great potential and have had a great 14 games, which is good, but the fact is, there's a lot of work to do and I don't want to get carried away in thinking that suddenly, Manchester United are going to be challenging next year.
"They've bought a good player, they've got a good team, and if the harmony is right and the togetherness is there, then they can be competitive, but they are still so far behind Liverpool.
“They’ve only won five games away from home and when they were where they were, people never thought about or mentioned them as title contenders, they were considered a bad team.
"I never get carried away positively or negatively, you look at the situation and they've done really well in the last 14 games. The future does look bright for them, we’ll just have to wait and see whether they can continue that that consistency.”
In spite of Liverpool's historic achievement this season finally putting to bed three decades of disappointment in the domestic league, Barnes says he expects manager Jurgen Klopp to already have his side focused on retaining the title next year.
Barnes also admitted he had not really celebrated Liverpool's title win, with the club already so far ahead in the table that winning the league had become inevitable.
He said: “I hardly celebrated Liverpool winning the Premier League. This was because we knew Liverpool were going to win it, it wasn’t exactly a shock.
"I liken it to be winning a game in football, you’re 5-0 up with 30 seconds to go, and at the end of the game, people are celebrating wildly as if it was a possibility of the opposition scoring six goals in 30 seconds. Yes, it is great that we won the league, and I celebrated for half an hour and that was it, now we look forward towards next season.
“We knew months ago when the league was suspended that Liverpool were going to win it, but we won it last week and what a huge achievement that was! In typical Liverpool style, we forget about it and start focusing on next season and making sure that we are competitive enough to be up there next season.”