Wayne Rooney says he doesn't foresee Manchester United catching Premier League pace-setters Manchester City next season, let alone during the current campaign.
Rooney rejoined Everton last summer after spending 13 years at Manchester United, who trail leaders City by 13 points in the title race.
The 32-year-old won five Premier League titles during his time at Old Trafford, but he said during a wide-ranging discussion on Sky Sports' Monday Night Football programme that City are setting a new standard.
"In terms of catching Manchester City, certainly not this season and -- if I'm being perfectly honest -- it'll be very difficult next season if Manchester City keep playing the way they are playing," Rooney said. "They are almost getting to the level Barcelona were at four or five years ago.''
Rooney admitted he was impressed by the City team former Barca and Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola has built.
"It's not nice to say, but if you can't enjoy that style of football and that way of playing you won't enjoy football," he said. "It's great to watch. It's almost perfect football at times.
"I think Guardiola is putting the foundations in place of emulating that Barcelona team. You can see they're well on the way to doing that."
Rooney does at least think United have made a fine signing in Alexis Sanchez, saying: "For me he is the perfect player for Manchester United."
"He's got aggression, passion, desire. You can see he is a winner," Rooney added. "That's what Manchester United have lacked.''
Turning his attention to the England squad, the former skipper said some players are not hurt by defeat and should learn from the attitude of Harry Kane, whom he described as "probably the best striker in Europe."
Rooney feels Kane should be the man to captain England at this summer's World Cup because of his natural leadership qualities.
"He can go where he really wants to. He is that good. He is like a young Alan Shearer," Rooney said. "The goals he scores are all different types of goals.
"His mentality -- it hurts him when you don't win and you can't say that about all the players. He really wants to win and score goals, he wants to improve.
"He is the natural leader now in that England team. He is the one that really has to wear the armband. If England are going to do well this summer it's on how well he does."
Kane, 24, was recently linked with Real Madrid and Rooney believes Spurs could have a problem retaining him if they do not win silverware soon.
Rooney said: "I think the problem Tottenham have is his motivation is goals. His motivation is going to change from goals to trophies and if Tottenham don't win trophies in the next year or two, he is going to want to go to play elsewhere to win those trophies."
For Everton, Rooney was an unused substitute as the Toffees were thrashed 5-1 at Arsenal on Saturday, and he said he found it painful viewing.
"I said at half-time to the lads I was actually embarrassed sat on the bench because the performance was not good enough for what we want, and how we know we can play," he said.
Information from Press Association Sport was used in this report.