A two or three-month “cameo” from Paul Pogba is now integral to Manchester United’s title chances, says Gary Neville, with the former Red Devils defender claiming there is a “slim” chance of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side claiming the crown.
A 0-0 draw with defending champions Liverpool has allowed a standing at the summit to be maintained, but an uninspiring showing at Anfield has raised as many questions as it delivered answers.
With the playing field levelling out in 2020-21, there are now just five points separating the top six.
Manchester City, who have moved into second, appear to be the team with momentum behind them, as others struggle to find a spark, and Neville admits supposed superstars – including an £89 million ($121m) World Cup winner – need to step up for United.
The Red Devils legend told Sky Sports after witnessing a goalless stalemate on Merseyside: “I think Manchester United's chances of winning this league are slim - Liverpool and Man City are still the best two teams in this league.
“But the slim chance they have to win this league will depend on something like Paul Pogba delivering a cameo of two or three months of brilliance, which he is capable of.
“He's got confidence, he's got arrogance - good arrogance, in a sense that he believes in himself. He thinks he should be playing in the biggest games in the world, and winning titles, and thinking positive thoughts, thinking you're the best is a big thing when you're looking to win.
“Just in that last 20 minutes, I felt United just had that little bit of missing belief. It's not a long way away, but that's the bit that will stop them winning the title.
“I thought it was tough for him on Sunday. I've seen it over the years, where Sir Alex Ferguson had to put Wayne Rooney or Danny Welbeck out on that right-hand side, and it's not easy when you don't play there, to play there. It's easier to come off the left onto your right and slip inside, but it's not natural for them on that right wing, so I thought he was given a tough gig on Sunday in terms of his natural position.
“If you asked Paul Pogba: you can play any position in midfield or any up front, that's the one he wouldn't pick, right of midfield. I didn't criticise his performance at Anfield because I thought it was a tough gig - the same with Marcus Rashford, who prefers to play on the left - but I do think he can have a big influence on United.”
Pogba could have made a decisive impact against Liverpool, allowing United to edge clear of the chasing pack, but he squandered the Red Devils’ best opportunity and the points were shared between two arch-rivals.