Jose Mourinho believes Manchester United have evolved enough to challenge for the Premier League title next season.
The club, who will finish sixth this term, are 24 points behind champions Chelsea, but their campaign could ultimately result in Europa League and League Cup victories.
He said: “This season we are not close to winning the league. There are clubs with more stability than us, better squads, more time to work.
I cannot say that but I’m pretty sure that from a mental and a tactical point of view, we have had a very good evolution.
“If, in the next transfer window, we manage to be successful, I think we can [challenge for the title].
“The one that I really enjoy doing is the transition from the first to the second season because I know what I do, I know what I don’t do.
“There is work to be done. The good thing is the club knows, the board knows, I know and we are together on this process.
“It was not the kind of club and team where you were ready to arrive and to go with everything and go direct to the big titles.”
Mourinho has launched a strong defence of £89.3m signing Paul Pogba, insisting he remains the best midfielder in the world.
Mourinho said: “The problem is the price tag on his back. I hope next summer he is no longer the highest transfer fee and then the pressure goes to somebody else.
“If his transfer fee was half of what it was, everyone would be saying; ‘What a buy, he is playing more than good.’
Everybody expects performances according to that huge transfer fee and that brings pressure and sometimes unfair analysis.
“He had very good matches. The best in the world is almost always the goalscorer, I feel a bit unfairly, so to say (Pogba) is the best in the world is difficult to say.
“To be the best midfield player, I think so. I don’t see another one with everything he has. He has to develop, of course he has to.”
Mourinho, meanwhile, has praised Wayne Rooney’s professionalism amid one of his most difficult seasons at Old Trafford.
The United captain has taken on a more peripheral role on the playing front but has said his preference is to stay with the club as long as he plays more.
Mourinho said: “Sometimes the players understand the situation, sometimes they still feel they are 24 or 25.
“It’s very difficult. The good thing with Wayne is that he’s very much a club man. If he is frustrated, he hides it. If he is not happy, he hides it. He behaves in the best possible way.”