Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville gives his reaction to Manchester United’s 4-2 win over Leeds and says the next month will define the season for Ralf Rangnick’s side.
United took a 2-0 lead into half-time at Elland Road on Super Sunday, but were pegged back by two goals within a minute from Rodrigo and Raphinha. They did, however, rally to survive a scare and extend their unbeaten run to seven games.
Neville spoke about how United need to cut out those “mad moments; those five-minute periods where they concede two goals” and how the next month is crucial for hopes of finishing in the top four and progressing in the Champions League.
He also spoke about his belief that interim boss Ralf Rangnick will not get the job at Old Trafford on a permanent basis in the summer, but that he is in the strongest position to help make the decision as to who will replace him at the helm.
Read on for the former Manchester United defender’s verdict or listen to the podcast below…
‘Important that Manchester United secure fourth place’
Manchester United do have vulnerabilities. David De Gea has made 92 saves, which is the most in the Premier League, with Illan Meslier, the Leeds goalkeeper, second. It is not a good reflection on these teams. Manchester United have got to become more difficult to play against.
They are playing Atletico Madrid away on Wednesday; they have got Tottenham, Liverpool, Manchester City coming up. It is a big month and that month is going to define the season in terms of finishing in the top four and progressing in the Champions League.
There is a lot of stuff coming out on a continuous basis: the captaincy, who they want as the next manager, cliques in the dressing room. All that sort of stuff comes out, but they do continue to keep having those big moments in matches where their brilliant players can still deliver for them and they do win games in moments.
But the test is now the next month. This period was always going to come and it is here. That was the start of it and I thought it was a really difficult game. Leeds are a team who do invite you on to try and score goals against them, but it is still one of the most difficult places for Manchester United to come.
They have got to stop those mad moments, those five-minute periods where they concede two goals, because if you concede two against City, Liverpool or Atletico, you are out of the game. I think this [the game against Leeds] is a warning sign.
Manchester United needed these points in the bag. It is inconceivable that, coming out of Tottenham at home, Manchester City away and Liverpool away that they are going to get seven to nine points. As a United fan, I hope they do, but they could easily come out of those three games with four points or five points or three points – you don’t know. They are the type of games in any season over the last five or 10 years you could lose.
If you are Ralf Rangnick, you have got to plan that you are going to drop points in those three matches, not that you would foresee it or want it, but it could happen. These points that he has got from these last few matches will be needed. Arsenal have still got games in hand, as have Tottenham. There’s a long way to go, but Manchester United are in a decent position.
If you had said to me when Rangnick took over with the run of fixtures that they have got, this is where I would have wanted them to have been, maybe a point or two in front. I still don’t think it is plain-sailing and I still think it could turn quite quickly as I don’t think it is stable behind the scenes at all.
I’m looking forward to Madrid on Wednesday and I hope Manchester United can have a good game, but they have got to come back and do the business on the weekends. It is really important they get that fourth-place spot.
‘Rangnick will not get the job, but is in strongest position to decide who does’
It definitely is different [to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s regime], there’s no doubt. I think Rangnick has found it more difficult than he imagined at the beginning. The run of results have been good during his time in charge so far and the fixtures have been good as well, but he has done what he had to do in the fixtures.
I don’t think he gets the job at the end of the season, come what may, now. I think maybe there was a feeling at the beginning that it could happen; that isn’t going to happen. Manchester United will have a new manager next season.
I think he will have a say in who gets the job because what he has got is a real good view of the characters, personalities, performance levels and training levels of the current group of players so he is in a strong position to advise. He is probably in the strongest position to advise because he is having day-to-day contact with them. He is seeing how they cope with disappointment, how they cope with atmospheres, how they cope with big games, how they cope with training; can they meet the demands of the club? Have they got the quality?
People say he is a sporting director and a coach, but the reality is that his position as a coach is short-term; his position as assisting the club, constructing their new methodology and structure moving forward is a longer term position for two years. I’d rather him get that bit right; I’d rather suffer in the short-term for the longer-term perspective being right. He has got good experience around building structures in football clubs and Manchester United do need that.
In the summer, they have got big appointments to make, namely the manager. The manager has got to be right next season to be able to take on Tuchel, Guardiola and Klopp because if you don’t take on those three with a manager who can face them like-for-like, you will get beat up. It has been proven over the last few years that great managers in this league will bring you great things; Manchester United need a great manager to compete with the ones that are at that level in this league at this moment in time.
Man Utd’s upcoming fixtures
Atletico Madrid (away) – February 23, Champions League last 16 first leg
Watford (home) – February 26 – Premier League
Man City (away) – March 6 – Premier League, live on Sky Sports
Tottenham (home) – March 12 – Premier League, live on Sky Sports
Atletico Madrid (home) – March 15 – Champions League last 16 second leg
Liverpool (away) – March 20 – Premier League, live on Sky Sports
Watch free highlights of the four midweek Premier League games – including Liverpool vs Leeds and Burnley vs Spurs on Wednesday – on SkySports.com and the Sky Sports App shortly after full-time.
Watch Soccer Special on Sky Sports PL and SSN from 7pm on Wednesday.