Manchester United are now better-placed to win the Premier League under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer than in Jose Mourinho’s runner-up season, says Gary Neville.
United dropped 12 points off Premier League leaders Manchester City but are a point clear in second place – which would represent their highest finish since Mourinho’s departure – following a 0-0 draw at Chelsea on Sunday.
That draw did extend their unbeaten run away from home, which now stretches to 20 Premier League games, dating back to February 17 last year. It is United’s longest away league run in their history.
Speaking on the Gary Neville Podcast, Neville explained why that consistency – coupled with their recruitment under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – had peaked his optimism about their potential to win the title for the first time since 2013.
He said: “Over the last 12 months, Manchester United have put an incredible run of results together. The points tally has been big, year to year.
“Their away form is outstanding and that that takes some resilience, to go 20 games unbeaten away from home. It takes some.
“I come back to my time at Manchester United, if I came to Stamford Bridge, and we kept a clean sheet and we came away with a point. We quite often lost to Chelsea at Old Trafford, let alone at Stamford Bridge, we had a poor record against them. You always want to win every single game – but this is a tough place to play.
“So those Manchester United players going back on that bus tonight can say that they’ve taken part in those 20 matches away from home, they deserve great congratulations for that. There’ll be some criticism from United fans saying why didn’t they go and win it, why weren’t they more positive, and rightly so. United should always strive to do that.
“But to actually go 20 games away from home needs applauding because it’s hard to do that. What do you use to demonstrate teams that have got good character and personality? They’re good away from home, they’re good on set pieces, they look like they want to play with each other.
“That’s why I think this Manchester United team is better suited than the one from two or three years ago under Jose Mourinho that finished second. I actually feel there’s a better spirit. I think they’ve got a far better chance of winning the league in the next two or three years than they were under Jose a couple of years ago.
“I thought it was a strange bunch of lads, they just didn’t seem to like each other. They didn’t really appeal to me as a fan. I think they’re going in the right direction. Whether they get there or not, that’s another matter; we’ll know in the future. But they’re certainly going in the right direction.”
‘United nearer than Chelsea to title’
Chelsea have a four-year head start over Manchester United when it comes to their most recent Premier League title win, last lifting the trophy under Antonio Conte in 2017.
But even after spending more than £200m on players in the summer, the Blues’ season – which saw them sit ninth last month before the arrival of Thomas Tuchel – showed they are further off the pace than their opponents on Sunday, Neville added.
He said: “I think United are nearer, I think Chelsea got some work to do on the defence; I think that there’s some maturity in their players in attack – Havertz, Werner, Pulisic, Ziyech – I think there are outstanding talents there, but they’ve all got to merge.
“I think Rashford is probably a little bit further ahead in his development; there’s also Cavani Pogba, Fernandes, so I’d say United are just a touch further ahead, and they are in the league anyway, they’re six points in front. So that’s suggested by the league table.
“But it won’t take much from Chelsea’s point of view to get there, it’s whoever recruits better in the summer, which players develop more, and which managers can get the best out of the players. But I’d say that for United this season to finish second would be a huge advance on last season.
“For Chelsea to get into the top four under Tuchel I think would be very good. And then they’ve both got to try and win another trophy if they can.”