Gary Neville has reminded Jose Mourinho that “nobody feels sorry for you when you’re at Manchester United”.
United are 15 points behind Premier League leaders Manchester City after 22 games this season.
The club have been knocked out of the Carabao Cup by Bristol City, and face Derby in the FA Cup third round on Friday.
They are also through to the Champions League last-16 where they face Sevilla, but City’s league form has cast a shadow over their season.
Neville says that finishing second “would be an improvement”, but “shouldn’t be tolerated” going forward.
“The festive period has ended on a high,” he told Sky Sports. “I started the period co-commentating on the Leicester game, which was such a big disappointment because they deserved to win that game and in the last minute they shot themselves in the foot. That set them back, then they had the two home draws.
“You’d say Huddersfield, Southampton, Burnley, Leicester are the games you can look at and say there should be four, five more points on the board. Then you’d say Manchester United would be having a fantastic season but it’s those dropped points combined with what’s happening over the road – the fact the City are so many points clear and the style in which they’re playing. But it’s still better at United than it has been in the past few years.
“The problem is that when you’ve got such big rivals and such big rivals in management terms as Jose and Pep, everything gets amplified. That’s the nature of a big club like Manchester United – getting criticism as well as the praise.
“But you have to forget the uncontrollables – don’t feel picked on, because nobody feels sorry for you when you’re at Manchester United; you have to accept and be tough enough to overcome it.
“They’ve still got trophies to play for – the FA Cup, the Champions League – and they have a real challenge on to finish second in the league.
“While second shouldn’t be tolerated at Manchester United, it would be an improvement on recent years.”