How impressive have Manchester City been this season? How can Manchester United catch them? Is second place a success for United?
Gary Neville discussed those questions and more as he assessed the Manchester rivals on the Gary Neville Podcast after the final day of the Premier League season.
Here’s what Neville had to say about the gap between City and the rest, United’s “mentality” problems and more…
City on a “different level”
“In a single season, the stats for Manchester City are incredible, the goals, the points they acquired…they have absolutely blown everyone away, to a point where we haven’t had a race to discuss for the last two or three months.
“They have been outstanding and on a different level. Champions are consistent, they defend well, they win when they are not at their best, they blow teams away and score three, four, five goals regularly, they keep possession well, they use their energy levels efficiently and Man C
ity have done all of those things. They have been absolutely wonderful.
“I did say last season that I wondered whether the type of football that Pep Guardiola plays would be able to win a Premier League, but he has absolutely answered that question like you wouldn’t believe. It’s been Pep Guardiola’s football. We did quite a lot of Barcelona games in the Champions League when Pep Guardiola was the coach and it was an outstanding team and he’s now got a team playing in exactly the same mould.
“It’s a big jump for everyone to make in the summer, firstly with the right recruitment and getting the right players into the squads to get anywhere near Manchester City. They are well in front.”
Guardiola will want more
“I think the last three or four weeks have been important for Manchester City. I remember they won the league and then three or four days later you questioned if they would be the same, but they were.
“There has been a little dip against Huddersfield last Sunday, but generally they have maintained their standard since winning the league and I get the feeling from Pep Guardiola that he’s the type of manager, coach and person who is not going to get satisfaction from this single victory in the league. That if he doesn’t win it next year he will see it as a failure and he will see his three years as a failure. I think he will see one in three as not good enough.
Yes there is the adapting in the first season and getting used to the league and getting the right players in, but he will think “now have won it I have to win it again”, and Jose Mourinho, Jurgen Klopp, Mauricio Pochettino, the new Arsenal manager, and potentially the new Chelsea manager or Antonio Conte, will have to think long and hard about how to stop Manchester City.
“Pep Guardiola won three league titles at Barcelona and Bayern Munich on the bounce and he has come here to win multiple leagues, not just one.”
Is second a success?
“The FA Cup final next Saturday against Chelsea will ultimately decide whether this season is seen as progression or not for Manchester United. In the league, which is where everybody wants to be measured, you have to say that second is progression from where Manchester United have been, but it’s not a successful season for Manchester United when you don’t win the league. That’s the measure of the club and has been for 60, 70, 80 years, it has to be the league title you are measured by.
“But to keep winning trophies would show they are still a club that are winning things and keeping that winning mentality. Manchester City have had the most outstanding of seasons and Jose Mourinho measures himself by title wins, not finishing second.
“I am sure if they win the FA Cup then as a fan I would think ‘yeah, win a trophy, finish second’, it’s the first time that has happened since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, but then go and win the title. That is what every Manchester United fan wants and what Jose Mourinho wants.”
How do United close the gap?
“The question at Manchester United is which players do you keep and which don’t you keep. Who are the ones that Jose Mourinho thinks don’t have the mentality and who are the ones he feels do have it?
“I am confused by that, and Jose Mourinho probably is at times too, because the performance levels are up and down so much. It’s not just game to game but half to half. Look at the games against Manchester City and Crystal Palace, you see them at such a low and then such a high.
He has mentioned mentality a lot in the last few weeks and I am convinced it’s because of those peaks and troughs coming so unexpectedly. You think how have they gone that low, and then here’s something else.
“He will want to make sure that is gone. That usually goes by having characters in the dressing room not letting the standards drop and making sure he has two, three, four players added to the squad. People who know how to win and don’t drop their standards week in, week out.
“That’s what Manchester City have been this season, they have been consistent. Manchester United have had a good season in the league in finishing second but it has been inconsistent and they have dipped at times. They have lost against all three promoted teams, that’s nine points. That’s an attack for next season. There are nine points you need to sort out and then you work away at the others and the big gap”, according to Sky News