Jose Mourinho has built a squad capable of winning Manchester United's first Premier League title since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, Mike Phelan has told ESPN FC.
Phelan was Ferguson's assistant when United lifted their 20th title in 2013, and he has watched his former club finish seventh, fourth, fifth and sixth in the four seasons since.
But after starting the season with three wins in a row -- scoring 10 goals without conceding -- Phelan believes the drought could be about to end.
He said: "It's been a very good start. I think the fixture list has been kind in a way, but the preparation has been good and that's showing in the results they've got.
"They bought well in the summer. They look physically stronger and mentally more attuned to the job now so it looks as though progress has been made.
"It's a squad that has definitely got credentials now. The Premier League is a difficult league to win and there a lot of other clubs who have invested heavily. I think they have given themselves a real opportunity to be successful.
"The competition has strengthened in the Premier League because most teams now can afford to spend £50 million on a player whereas in the past only a few could do that.
"United are certainly in the contest, probably a lot more in the contest than they have in the previous few years."
Mourinho spent almost £150m to sign Romelu Lukaku, Nemanja Matic and Victor Lindelof in the summer.
While rivals Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City were involved in transfer sagas on deadline day, United had all three summer signings secured by the end of July, something that Phelan believes has given United an advantage.
He added: "A club like Manchester United are always looking for fine tuning. They needed to add to the squad because they are in bigger competitions this time.
"The acquisitions have been good and you can see that in the way they have started the season and the way they have gone about their business.
"They look capable of going from August through to May.
"United are always in the market for the best players that add to the core of your group.
"Jose has gone for proven Premier League players so they know what it's all about. The only thing they need to get used to is Manchester United because it's different.
"Getting them in early, doing the business early, it always gives you that breathing space to work with those players and for them to get to know each other."
The Europa League triumph in May has ensured United are back in the Champions League after missing out in two of the last three seasons.
Mourinho's team have been drawn in a group with Basel, Benfica and CSKA Moscow, and Phelan insists, despite struggling to qualify since Ferguson's retirement, United will be expected to be involved at the business end of the competition.
He said: "I think Sir Alex's vision was refreshing because he tried to build a culture and a group of players who could challenge on all fronts. Top clubs have to challenge in everything.
"Every club in the Champions League has visions of progressing and getting to those knockout rounds. United are making steps forward and that's important."