Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says the club are “further behind” in their development than he hoped for at this stage of the season.
United, who host Newcastle on Boxing Day, sit eighth in the Premier League and seven points off a spot in the Champions League places.
Solskjaer has been in charge for a year but says he is using this season to build a team for the next campaign.
“We knew this season was going to be a season of some ups and downs,” he said.
“This season will be used to find a team and a squad for next season, but hopefully we can speed this process up by getting more results.
“I expect us to be more consistent, definitely more experienced and learning from these setbacks.
“At the moment we’re a little bit further behind than what I was hoping for.”
Midfielder Paul Pogba, who had been out since September with an ankle injury, came on as a substitute in United’s 2-0 defeat by Watford on Sunday.
Solskjaer says the France international is the “best all-round midfielder in the world” and could be in line for a start against Newcastle on Thursday.
“He can play anywhere. He can play the holding midfield, he’s a box-to-box midfielder. He can drop deep, get it, play them long passes, he can get higher up and combine, one-twos,” added the Norwegian.
“That’s the beauty of having Paul because he is the best all-round midfielder in the world. He can do all roles, but if I play him low he should have played high and if I play him high I should have played low.
“There’s always going to be that discussion with him. It’s great to have him back.”