Manchester City are the team to beat, and while Manchester United can beat them, repeatedly, it is not enough.
City are too far ahead right now and have a lead in the title race of 14 points, although United do have a game in hand.
Former star Gary Neville has challenged Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side to cut this deficit to a handful of points by time the season is over.
Speaking after the FA Cup defeat to Leicester which he says left him ‘demoralised’, Neville told Sky Sports that United must work on cutting City’s lead down in the Premier League.
Neville explained that if United can finish within touching distance of City, it will inspire the current group of players to feel like they have a real chance of overhauling Pep Guardiola’s side next season.
The former United defender explained: “You have to try and get to within single figures so that you then think, “where could we make up those four points, those eight points?”
“And you can see that, you can visualise it. When we used to lose leagues, we thought, “OK, so where could we put this right? Was it our away form? Did we get two or three players sent off in certain games and drop points?”
“And you can point towards it, but when you are 16, 17 points behind, there is no point looking, whereas actually when you are a few points away, within say seven, or eight, or nine, you can think, “Yes, Crystal Palace at home, Sheffield United, I think we can turn them ones around. So that is why it is really important they finish in a strong second place.”
United have to push over the final few weeks
While United’s squad is still lacking in key areas and requires improvement, the current group of players will benefit from getting closer to City and listening to Neville’s advice.
Last season United finished more than 30 points off the league leaders. While 15 or so points would be an improvement, it still does not suggest the squad is ready to take the next step.
As Neville points out, if United are just seven or eight points back come the end of the season, there will be a belief that with strong transfer business, there is a chance to go one better in 2021/22.
Of course, second place is not guaranteed. Leicester are just one point behind us, and at present, United have not locked down a top four spot.
There is plenty of work to be done, and matches against Tottenham, Leeds, Liverpool, Wolves, and Leicester among the games remaining.
Neville is right to say that how United finish this season could have a big bearing on the next one.
If United can finish within single point figures of City, then taking the next step begins to look more feasible, rather than just a pipe dream.
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