Manchester United ‘brave’ in their performance at Manchester City, says Sky Sports pundit, after goals from Bruno Fernandes and Luke Shaw seal 2-0 victory at the Etihad. Listen to the Gary Neville Podcast for more on the derby, Liverpool’s struggles, and the changing approach of coaches.
Gary Neville says Manchester United must build on their ‘surprising’ win at Manchester City with a strong finish to the season to boost their chances of closing the gap next year.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side stunned Premier League leaders City with a 2-0 win at the Etihad which ended their rivals’ 28-game unbeaten run.
However, despite the win, City’s advantage over second-placed United still stands at a comfortable 11 points and Neville says the priority for United during the final 10 games of the season must be to close that gap to grow belief they can be serious title contenders next season.
“We know they’re not quite ready yet [to win the title] and that’s proven over the last couple of months but finish the season well,” the Sky Sports pundit said on the Gary Neville Podcast.
“I’ve talked today about finishing a poor second or a good second. A poor second is whereby it fades out towards the end of the season and becomes a bit of a poor league, City win it easily, and you end up 20 points off and you’re nowhere near still.
“Whereas actually if you can go and get within seven or eight points of City it will count for something. When Liverpool were chasing City down over that two or three, four years, they were getting closer every single year.
“These 10 games Man Utd have left are really important. They’ve got to finish a good second. They could be caught by Leicester and other teams but I do think they’re the second-best team in the country this season.
“If they’re not to finish second it would be a real problem but if they are going to finish second be a good second, not a poor second.
“They need to think about how they catch this Man City team in the long term. Winning today will make them feel good tonight and City will feel bad about it but at the end of the season it will be Man City lifting the trophy and those Man Utd players and the manager have to work out how they get onto that podium because that’s the only thing that matters.
“There were many times during a season where we lost games against our rivals but at the end we were holding the trophy up and nobody remembered the games we lost in, they just remembered who won the trophy.
“Short term gain for Man Utd, and a good moment, and a surprising moment from where they’ve been this week in their performances. For City, they have to pick themselves up.”
Manchester United ‘brave’ in victory at Man City
Assessing the performance, which saw United take the lead inside two minutes through a Bruno Fernandes penalty and then double their advantage with a Luke Shaw strike on 50 minutes, Neville praised the attitude of the players.
“I’m shocked,” he said. “It wasn’t that United couldn’t win here today. They could and they’ve got a good record here over the last 12-18 months. But it was the way they won, the way they went about the game.
“They looked so drained in the last couple of weeks and you just think, ‘where have they got the energy to play the way they did?’ Yeah, they might sit back, they might ride their luck and get a goal on the counter-attack… but they pushed up the pitch. Maybe the goal helped them in the first minute.
“If you look at the build-up to the first goal, all the Man Utd players are compact, they’re tight together, the defence is up the pitch and they’re all round the play, picking up loose balls. And that was the same for the first 20 minutes of the game. United really good, the back four really brave.
“I’ve said Man Utd will not win this league unless the back four push up the pitch and feel a little uncomfortable with the space that’s left behind them. I think they’re starting to do it a little bit.
“There are signs in games where – today definitely – they were brave. Not just brave out of possession in pushing up but I thought they got on the ball as well, popping it into midfield. So many teams play against City and get pushed back into their defensive third and then when they get the ball they pass back to the keeper and run up the pitch and take the easy option. United didn’t do that today.
“Fifteen minutes before half-time City got on top and you thought ‘here we go, this is the pattern of the game to come’ but then in the second half, United were even better than the first, certainly in the first 25 minutes in the second half they were the better team.
“City had that one chance with Rodri where he hits the bar, but after that United dominated. Dominated on the ball, without the ball. They should have scored three or four goals.
“Anthony Martial had two really good chances, Marcus Rashford should have hit one where, to be fair, if he’d hit it he had a great chance of scoring.
“I’m a little delirious at this moment in time because I didn’t expect what I was going to see today. City have been outstanding this last couple of months.”