Gary Neville has backed Manchester United to qualify for next season’s Champions League, insisting he would be surprised if they didn’t finish in the top-four.
Erik ten Hag’s in-form side moved just a point behind second-placed Manchester City following their 3-0 victory over Bournemouth on Tuesday night. Goals from Casemiro, Luke Shaw and Marcus Rashford secured a convincing win, and United legend Neville was impressed by what he saw.
When asked if he would be surprised if United didn’t finish inside the top four, Sky Sports pundit Neville said, “Yes. But still only 17 games gone, a long way to go – anything can happen. But they look like they have something – a bit of experience in midfield with Christian Eriksen, Casemiro and Fernandes. They look wiser. Rashford is in form – they need a centre forward but they have forwards in form. Defensively not that strong – but they’re doing okay.”
Neville also said that United have “bonded together more” after coming through Cristiano Ronaldo’s acrimonious departure at Old Trafford. The Portuguese star left the club in November following his explosive interview with Piers Morgan in which he hit out at the club, its owners and manager Ten Hag.
Neville added, “I think coming through the situation with Cristiano, coming through the situation with (Harry) Maguire and overcoming the difficult start – they have all bonded together more than what they would have done with an ordinary or normal start. Ten Hag is now in a strong position to call the shots, but they need a striker.”
United’s need for a striker was deepened by the departure of Ronaldo – who has since joined Al-Nassr. The Red Devils had been linked with a move for Cody Gakpo – only to see rivals Liverpool snatch him in a £44 million move.
Manchester United had been considered favourites to sign Gakpo but missed out, after they were reduced to looking at loan deals owing to the Glazers looking to sell the club. Despite this, United’s form has been excellent, winning nine out of their last 10 games across all competitions.
The win over Bournemouth moved them level with third-placed Newcastle and one point behind defending champions Man City – although there is still a nine-point gap to leaders Arsenal. Despite the comfortable win on Tuesday night, Ten Hag wasn’t fully pleased with his side’s display. He said after the game:
“I’m happy with that (the win), quite obvious and quite clear. But today was not our best game, we have to be honest, we didn’t play that smart as a team, we made great goals but also sometimes we were lucky.”
He added, “It was like a tennis match. We don’t want to play tennis we want to play football. Keep possession. It costs so much energy for the back line. They take a lot of risks and the front players struggle to get back.”
- A Daily Mail report