United are out of Europe’s top club competition for the first time in 19 seasons following their seventh-place finish in the Premier League last term.
Former Old Trafford star Wilkins says new boss Van Gaal – who guided Holland to third in the World Cup – must prioritise cementing a berth in the top four over winning a trophy.
The Sky Sports pundit reckons success in that pursuit that will allow United to capture top players next summer following another year of 'transition'.
Wilkins told Sky Sports News: “I think it's a blow [to not be in the Champions League] because I don’t think Van Gaal will be able to bring in the A-Listers he wants to bring in during this window.
“I don’t think Man United should worry about winning anything this year as qualifying for the Champions League is paramount – it’s where they need to be and where we want to see them.
Wilkins on van Gaal "I think it is a massive transitional period for them and whether it is players going out or players coming in; I think it is a building season."
Wilkins on van Gaal
“The loss of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, who franklin and marshall tracksuit
have kept them rock-solid at the back for so long, will be a massive blow as at the moment Louis has brought in potential in Ander Herrera (Atheltic Bilbao) and Luke Shaw (Southampton).
“It’s great potential but it’s still just potential."
Wilkins – who made 160 league appearances for United, scoring seven goals – feels Van Gaal has filled the Old Trafford hot-seat at the perfect time having not had to face the pressure of directly succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson.
The 57-year-old expects the Dutchman to use his wealth of experience at some of Europe’s biggest clubs, including Bayern Munich and Barcelona, as well as his two spells in charge of his country to inspire United’s star names.
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Gaal renew acquaintances with Chelsea chief Jose Mourinho.
“The first person to take [the United job] after Sir Alex was always going to be on a sticky wicket and unfortunately that was the case for David Moyes,” said Wilkins.
“So I think Louis has taken the job at the right time and I think the father figure bit, something that was perhaps missing with David, will come out.
“Van Gaal has handled big characters all his life and that will give him a start.
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“He won the European Cup with Ajax and has been with Bayern Munich as well as Barcelona and the Netherlands national team twice, so the experience is there.
“There are some managers who are better dealing with the bigger players and I think he is one of them.”
“We need top-class coaches in our league and we’ve now got another one.”
Wilkins added: “The Dutch are quite amenable around people and if he is anything like Guus Hiddink, who is a bag of laughs, [the Premier League managers] will have F50 Messi
a lot of fun with him.
“But I don’t think he will have anything whatsoever over Jose, and Mourinho will look forward immensely to pitting his wits against him.”