Cape Town - Manchester United no longer lord it over their Premier League rivals but are still a club the world's top players dream of joining, according to former Reds defender Gary Pallister.
The Old Trafford outfit's fall from grace since the retirement of manager Alex Ferguson in 2013 has been painful, with England's most succesful team now involved in an unedifying scrap simply to finish the season in the top four.
With an income stream the envy of almost every club in the world United have always signed marquee names, and even a second season in three without any Champions League involvement, Pallister believes, would not diminish their pulling power.
"The name of Man United, and getting the chance to play for them, carries weight around the world," Pallister told Reuters in an interview while attending the launch of United's latest commercial signing, Gulf Oil International.
"Look around this place, the stadium, the training ground, the tradition and all the history, players want to sample that and be part of something special.
"Some might have second thoughts if there was no Champions League but for most it would be tough to turn down the opportunity to become a legend here."
Pallister, who joined United from Middlesbrough in 1989 for a then record fee for a defender before striking up a fearsome partnership with Steve Bruce in four Premier League title campaigns, said United could still salvage something memorable from a disappointing campaign.
"Top four has always been the minimum," he said of the club's bid to qualify for next season's Champions League.
"It's a tough ask but we have to play Man City (this weekend), West Ham, Spurs. United are still in there fighting and you could say it's still in their own hands.
HELL OF A NIGHT
"We have a great chance to win the FA Cup, although we have a tough (quarterfinal) replay at West Ham, and on Thursday I believe it could be a hell of a night," added Pallister of the Europa League last-16 return against Liverpool where they trail 2-0 from the first leg at Anfield.
"If the atmosphere is right, and 99.9% of the time against Liverpool it's spot on, we can make it very uncomfortable for them. If we can score the first goal we could be in for one great night."
Pallister, 50, says there is a chance much-maligned manager Louis van Gaal could see out the final year of his three-year contract at United next term but it depends on "where and how" the team finish this season.
If not, Jose Mourinho would be among the favourites for the hot seat.
"With the CV he's got, any top club in Europe would be interested," Pallister said of former Chelsea, Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Porto coach Mourinho.
"I believe he's come out and said he will be starting a new job in July so somebody has obviously been to work with him.
"He's a great character, there's no getting away from that. But it's up to the club (United) to decide if that is an option, whether he would fit."