Manchester United are “not quite there” to win the Premier League according to Gary Neville, who expects his old club to mount a true title challenge next season.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s injury-time leveller cost United two points in a 3-3 draw with Everton on Saturday night. That result, coupled with Manchester City’s thrashing of Liverpool a day later, has left them five points off the league leaders, having played a game more.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said the club should not be considered title challengers on the back of that result, although further back his side have won only one of their last four Premier League games, including a shock home defeat by bottom club Sheffield United last month.
Speaking on the Gary Neville Podcast, Neville agreed it was too early for title talk after their recent run of form.
He said: “They’re not there yet, I know it’s disappointing, but it isn’t surprising. I think they’re on the right track.
“It has been clear in the last few weeks, drawing against Arsenal drawing against Liverpool losing against Sheffield United, drawing against Everton, that is not going to win you the title. And for me, I don’t expect Manchester United to win the title this year.
“But what I would expect is them to get closer to Liverpool and City, and that is what I do expect, and then expect them next year to challenge.
“I expect them next year to challenge [but I] don’t expect that there will be that centre-back in the club. Maybe another full-back. The goalkeeper situation as well that needs monitoring, no doubt, right-winger will be interesting and centre-forward, depending on how [Mason] Greenwood settles it in this last few months of this season.”
Despite the result, Neville did take encouragement from United’s performance against Everton, which he felt had been better than some earlier in the season that had returned a greater points tally.
He said: “I was at the game at Old Trafford on Saturday, and I’ve walked away from games this season where Manchester United have won. West Ham away, or games of that ilk, and thought ‘what was that’? I came away from the game on Saturday thinking it was a really good performance. Things looked like they were really connected, they looked like they were in sync with one another.
“Credit to Everton for keeping going but it was a bizarre end to the game. But it was a real disappointment for Manchester United because I’ve seen them play it a lot worse than that, a lot of times this season, and yet come out winners.
“I thought the performance was really good. I think that the question marks then, over the centre-backs, over the goalkeeper, will start to come.
“It tells us where Manchester United are at. We knew a few weeks ago, they’re just not quite there in terms of winning the title. I never thought they were, I never thought that because the performances weren’t good enough. And there just was something missing.
“Actually on Saturday, I thought the performance was good, but then still something’s just not quite right. I didn’t expect them to win the league at the start of the season. I know that people will say ‘he’ll say they didn’t show the belief’; I never expected them to have the belief.”