Manchester United are “the second-best team in the country” and should have been the ones to scupper the quadruple bid of arch-rivals Manchester City this season, says Gary Neville.
The Red Devils continue to chase down a runner-up finish in the Premier League, as the best of the rest behind Pep Guardiola’s runaway leaders, but are seeing routes to major silverware shut off.
A disappointing FA Cup quarter-final exit has been suffered at the hands of Leicester and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are now relying on others to prevent their neighbours from completing a clean sweep in 2020-21.
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What has been said?
Neville, a 1999 Treble winner at Old Trafford, told Sky Sports: “I still think Man Utd are the second-best team in the country, it could be under threat (their current league position), but I just feel United will have enough to get there in the end and I think at the end of this season, the purpose of Man Utd, I said it a few weeks ago, is to finish a good second, not a bad second.
“To finish below second would be a real disappointment, but the position they are in now is to finish as close to Manchester City as possible, it does matter how close you finish to them because it is played back at the end of the season – ‘oh you finished 16 points off them, 26 points off them...’ You have to try and get to within single figures so that you then think, ‘where could we make up those four points, those eight points?’”
A man with eight Premier League titles to his name added: “I am demoralised a little bit as a Manchester United fan as I thought that was a really good one to go for this season. Also, there comes a point when if you are going to catch Manchester City, you have to beat them in a big game in a big competition.
“Spurs have got that opportunity in a few weeks in a [Carabao Cup] final and if Man City are to get to another final - they obviously still have to beat Chelsea - then Manchester United have to be there to stop them. You cannot rely on other teams to stop them and if you are the second-best team in the country, you have a half-decent record against City, which Ole Gunnar Solskjaer does, then you have to be there and be the ones to stop them.
“If you think about 1999, when Arsenal had won the double the year before, we were the only side who could stop them in the semi-final at Villa Park and we did stop them, it was hard work, but we stopped them.
“The same in the league, you can't rely on other teams to stop them for you, if you want to catch teams, you have to leave one on them, and I was disappointed with that against Leicester, I know Man Utd fans are, I've seen the reaction on social media.”
The bigger picture
He still has United in contention for Europa League glory, having booked a quarter-final date with Granada in that competition, but will be watching on from afar as City look to line their pockets with medals before the current campaign comes to a close.
The Red Devils, who are expected to dip into the transfer market again this summer in a bid to become more competitive, will be back in action on April 4 when they play host to Brighton.