Football

Neville: Second ‘not good enough’ for United

But Neville concedes that finishing behind City represents progress

Manchester United are in a fight to hold on to their second spot in the English Premier League come the end of the season, but former Red Devils stalwart Gary Neville believes finishing as bridesmaids to Manchester City is "not good enough".

Runaway EPL leaders City are 13 points clear of their local rivals with a game in hand.

In the battle for three Champions League spots, United, third-placed Liverpool, fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur and fifth-placed Chelsea are separated by a six points with 10 games remaining.

Neville believes his former team will make it a Manchester one-two at the end of the season, suggesting that the clash with the Reds Saturday week's could be pivotal to holding off the challenge of Juergen Klopp's men.

The former England defender told Sky Sports: "I think United have to finish second to show progress from where they were.

"It still can't be classed as good enough, they had to win the league this year, but ultimately it is progression - but not good enough.

"From a point of view of second, I would say just United...

"The interesting game is the one we've got in a couple of weeks, the Manchester United-Liverpool game at Old Trafford.

"That will go a long way to deciding it but I think United will come out on top overall."

BARE MINIMUM

Manchester United centre back Chris Smalling, too, highlighted the importance of Saturday week's clash, adding that finishing second is the "bare minimum" for United.

The Red Devils never finished lower than third under Sir Alex Ferguson but have failed to finish higher than fourth since he retired in 2013.

"I think obviously we've been second for quite a while and that needs to be our bare minimum," said Smalling, who was part of United's last title-winning team under Ferguson in 2013.

"The fact we get to play Liverpool at home as well I think is a big advantage."

However, Liverpool attacker Sadio Mane warned that the Reds are gunning for United's second spot. After beating West Ham 4-1 last Saturday, he said: "Second is one of our targets...

"It is still possible to be second and we are going to do our best to get it."

Earlier this month Sky Sports asked its pundits - Paul Merson, Charlie Nicholas, Matt Le Tissier and Phil Thompson - which of the big teams would finish outside the top four.

Merson, Nicholas and Le Tissier all plumped for the Blues while Thompson suggested "Chelsea are looking particularly vulnerable".

However, Chelsea No. 1 Thibaut Courtois insists they have the quality to rise up from fifth to grab a Champions League spot.

Speaking after the 2-1 loss to top-four rivals United last Sunday, he said: "For the second, third and fourth spot there are five teams, so it will be hard until the last match of the season.

"But I think we have enough quality... we showed it against Barcelona."

Former Blues winger Pat Nevin agreed, saying squad depth could decide who misses out on a top-four spot next season. He told Chelsea's website: "Chelsea now have to go on a run, hopefully starting with something, even a point against Man City at the weekend.

"After that it might come down to who has the nerve and who has the deepest squad.

"This could be where Liverpool, and to some extent Spurs, might struggle as the Champions League games start to take their toll."

 

Football