Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has no doubts Manchester United will come back stronger next season, but is confident his squad can also match all of their Barclays Premier League rivals.
The Gunners head to Old Trafford on Sunday two points ahead of United and out to cement automatic qualification for the Champions League group stages.
Finishing third would, statistically at least, represent an improvement for Arsenal, who hold a game in hand, and could retain the FA Cup if they beat Aston Villa at Wembley on May 30.
Wenger, though, knows full well none of the title hopefuls can afford to stand still as they look to sustain a much-improved effort to reel in runaway champions Chelsea in 2015/2016.
Manchester United: Potential transfer targets summer 2015
Manchester United: Potential transfer targets summer 2015
1/10 Nathaniel Clyne (Southampton, 24)
With Rafael never getting close to favour under Louis van Gaal, right-back has been a problem area all season for United, with Antonio Valencia filling in at the position. Whilst Valencia has done well, Clyne is now England’s first choice and easily in the top three in his position in the Premier League. Southampton will not want to sell another one of their stars, but the player seemingly wants to move.
2/10 Radamel Falcao (Monaco, 29)
Who knows what will happen with the Colombian. Certainly he is not worth anywhere close to the mega move United were considering when they agreed to loan him last summer, having only scored four goals all season. But with his track record as one of the world’s best, United would be foolish not to consider a cut-price move, just in case he’s not broken once and for all.
3/10 Gareth Bale (Real Madrid, 25)
If a deal were to go through it would be an absolutely massive coup for the club, of course, and you know Manchester United will be exploring any possibility of a move. Despite his perceived unhappiness in Spain, Bale’s agent said he will be staying at the Bernabeu next season. Would cost a massive fee but would instantly turn the club into title contenders.
4/10 Edinson Cavani (PSG, 28)
Manchester United will surely be tempted if he is available despite having bigger needs elsewhere in their squad. Despite the perception that he has struggled to fit in at PSG, Cavani still has 50 goals in 91 matches for the club and has played the majority of his time there out of position on the wing. Tall and athletic he seems like a perfect fit for the Premier League, although he will cost a huge fee.
5/10 Hugo Lloris (Tottenham, 28)
The potential transfer of the Spurs and France No 1 is entirely wrapped in the future of David De Gea - if the Spaniard moves to Real Madrid then United will be scrambling for a new goalkeeper and there aren’t many better than Lloris. He’s four years older than De Gea but still young for a keeper.
6/10 Ilkay Gundogan (Borussia Dortmund, 24)
With Michael Carrick ageing and Wayne Rooney forced to play in the middle at various points this season, central midfield will be one of Van Gaal’s top priorities. The Borussia Dortmund man, 24, is a classy operator, strong on the tackle and a box-to-box threat. He is apparently being chased by Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool, among others, so United will have to move quickly.
7/10 Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund, 26)
The World Cup winner should be United’s top target this summer, they have no bigger hole to fill than in the centre of their defence. Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Jonny Evans are all talented defenders, but none of them have the leadership skills necessary and are a level below the very best. Hummels’ arrival would immediately improve the whole backline.
8/10 Nicolas Otamendi (Valencia, 27)
Like Hummels, Otamendi is the dominant type of centre-back that United are missing. He’s a bit on the short side – 6ft – but is a forceful character and very competent on the ball. Louis van Gaal should be considering a move for both, although that will take out a significant chunk of his transfer budget.
9/10 Kevin Strootman (Roma, 25)
It seems as if Louis van Gaal has been linked with the Roma midfielder for the entirety of his reign, who suffered another knee injury back in January and has only played seven times in all competitions this season, his only games since the original injury last April. If he can get back to full fitness then the Dutchman is a dominant midfielder with an eye for goal. But it’s a big ‘if’.
10/10 Felipe Anderson (Lazio, 22)
The Brazilian attacking midfielder has been linked with a £30m move to Old Trafford despite stating he wanted to stay in Rome. The 22-year-old scored 10 goals and added seven assists for Lazio last season and is seen as a potential star of the future.
"We feel we have made progress, but we have a good opportunity to show that on Sunday because in every game that is questioned," said Wenger, whose side were beaten 1-0 at home by Swansea on Monday night - a first league defeat since February 7.
"That is what is at stake until the end of the season, to show that we can be stronger next year.
"We made 79 points last year, that was quite a good total, but it was not enough to finish in the top three.
"Only one thing shows you have made progress and that is the continuity in your performances, and that you have a good level of cohesion.
"Since January we have produced consistent performances and we have also been very strong away from home, and again on Sunday we have an opportunity to show that we have made progress."
Following a slow start under new manager Lois van Gaal, United have clawed their way back into the top four as they bid to return to the Champions League, which could need a play-off in August.
Wenger is in no doubt United will soon be a force to be reckoned with again as they target a first trophy since Sir Alex Ferguson's departure.
"They have made progress since the start of the season, and will show that next season," said Wenger.
"It looks like they have improved quality-wise from the start to now."
United have already recruited Holland international Memphis Depay from PSV Eindhoven and have been linked with big-money moves for the likes of Gareth Bale and Harry Kane.
Wenger would not be surprised to see plenty of summer transfer activity at Old Trafford.
"It looks to me like they are on the market because every player I am offered, I am told Man United are on the case as well," he said.
"It looks like they are very active and you expect them to come back with some strong buys, but they already have a very strong squad. If you look at their squad, it's top quality already."