There is something familiar about Manchester United in 2020. They remind me of many of the Liverpool teams I played in. After an erratic start to the season, United head into the final games with renewed hope.
They are unbeaten in 17 games and Bruno Fernandes has transformed mood and expectations. A top-four finish looks likely. There is a feeling the worst is behind them.
I have always maintained that at clubs such as United the bigger picture is never as bad it appears during troubled periods. You hear and read about managers or clubs being 'five years behind' the leaders. I do not buy that.
When you have United's financial clout, one or two outstanding signings can turn an inconsistent team into a Champions League qualifier, or a top-four side into a title challenger.
United hope Fernandes is the man inspiring them to that first significant target of a Champions League place.
They look stronger with him because top-class players bring out more from those around them. I often experienced similar reawakenings at Liverpool, especially when Fernando Torres and Luis Suarez joined the club.
Within a few training sessions and games you realised you had a matchwinner so the belief soared and all the talk about managers 'needing a clear-out' subsided.
That is why I would offer a note of caution to United fans. Just as the club is never as far away from a revival as it might seem after nightmare defeats, they are not always as near to being title contenders as it appears after a promising run.
During my Anfield career, the regular source of mocking from rivals was the chant "it is always your year". We often headed into pre-season talking cautiously but confidently about going closer to Manchester United, Arsenal or Chelsea, who for a long period were the only teams truly capable of lifting the title.
Privately, I never went into any season believing we would win the league, but there were plenty in which I felt we could compete.
That was often because we ended the previous league season so strongly, showing the encouraging signs so identifiable in United recently.
In 2000-'01, Gerard Houllier's side suffered only two defeats in the last 16 games. A year later, we won 13 of our final 15 games.
Under Rafa Benitez, we won 12 of our last 14 fixtures in 2005-'06, lost just two in 22 at the end of 2007-'08, and won 10 of the final 11 games in 2008-'09.
"We just need a couple more signings and we will be there," was the feeling, and we always had a strong representation of academy talent. Seeing Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood burst onto the scene reminds me of Michael Owen and Robbie Fowler's galvanising impact.
Our problem was the same facing United now - the final step is toughest, especially when trying to establish a title-winning mentality.
I would often compare Liverpool's squad to United's and think, player for player, they were not much better. I saw a few world-class players who could improve any team in the world, and others who would not have got into our side.
The massive difference was Alex Ferguson, who made everyone wearing the Manchester United shirt believe they were worthy of it. He created that title-winning culture, not just in his best players, but everyone.
Recreating that will take much more than an encouraging sequence of results.
To eradicate inconsistent spells over 38 games and compete for the title in the next year or two will require another massive leap. Is this Manchester United side truly capable of going beyond 90 points next season? Not without more signings.
The difference between United and other clubs is they have the cash to find answers. They were the Premier League's biggest spenders last summer and paid another £47 million for Fernandes in January.
If they are proactive again, Liverpool do not spend and City get their signings wrong, United could close the gap. Getting past them is another matter.
Let's not lose sight of the fact United are still fifth in a battle to finish fourth. That is not good enough given how much they have already invested.
Out of context, anyone outside of the Premier League looking in will be asking how far has the club fallen where the United supporters are feeling more enthusiastic than in previous seasons.
There is greater understanding of the club's transitional period under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer so he is being judged to a lower standard than predecessors. He has done a very good job since the turn of the year.
I have stated before that I do not believe Solskjaer is the same level of coach as Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola, even though he has enjoyed some excellent results against them. I am not convinced Solskjaer will ever have their aura. So there must be realism with hope. Management demands constant problem-solving. No sooner is one area of the team functioning, another issue arises.
Fernandes' impact on United's front three is cause for excitement. Between them, Anthony Martial, Rashford and Greenwood have scored 56 this season, three more than Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.
That is not insignificant. On their day, the United trio can be devastating. But as a whole those statistics are no more relevant to the title race than Fowler and Stan Collymore (55) outscoring Andy Cole and Eric Cantona (32) in 1995-'96. Who won the double that season?
What matters in the Premier League is Liverpool have scored 16 more, conceded seven fewer, and collected 34 more points. Liverpool possess an attacking trio that is difficult to improve. Can we say the same of United?
I think they need another world-class player at the top end of the pitch. Martial's goal record has improved but I am yet to be convinced he is the man to fire them to a title challenge.
The players who elevated Liverpool from being a side chasing the top four into champions are Virgil van Dijk and Alisson. They take Klopp's side to a level beyond United, certainly defensively.
United have to worry about their 'keeper. David De Gea's poor form has gone on too long for it to be described as a blip. I do not believe he will get back to the level he was three or four years ago. Given he is a high earner he will not be easy to move on. While there are those suggesting on-loan Dean Henderson is ready to step up, he is not ready.
With respect to Sheffield United, there is a different pressure at Old Trafford. Some of the goals Henderson has conceded would have been scrutinised more if he was at Manchester United. However the observation is received, comparing the United of now to Liverpool in the 2000s is a compliment, not an insult.
We were in a constant state of being close, but not close enough. United have the resources to bridge the gap to ensure their wait to return to the top is not so long.
© Daily Telegraph, London