Ahead of his side's Europa League last-16 clash with Schalke, the former England manager said the Eredivisie was now a far more difficult proposition than it was during his first spell in Enschede.

But McClaren also explained that the nation's representatives' collective progress in European competition should not be underestimated.

"When you talk about Dutch football and the Dutch league, it’s got to get more credit," McClaren told Fifa.com

"You look at the likes of Ajax in the Champions League and but for a freak result, they would have gone through to the knockout stages."

"Then they played Manchester United and won at Old Trafford. PSV, AZ and ourselves are three teams in the last 16 of the Europa League - it could have been four. I think it proves that the Dutch league is very strong."

"It’s got a lot tougher than when I was here first. There was a breakaway of three teams – us, PSV and Ajax - but now the teams below have got stronger."

McClaren then spoke about Twente's chances of reaching the quarter-finals of the Europa League.

They go into Thursday's return leg on the back of a 1-0 advantage against Schalke, and the 50-year-old is wary of the threat that awaits them.

"Schalke are a very good team. We go there and we know what a 1-0 result is like at home - it’s very fragile. You are vulnerable to conceding a goal, then you have to score three," he said.

"But we know that Schalke are a team who are capable of scoring goals; they have (Klaas-Jan) Huntelaar and (Jefferson) Farfan back so they will be a bigger threat.

"We just have to concentrate on our performance and really concentrate on trying to score an away goal."