On Gary Neville’s latest podcast, the Sky Sports pundit explains why Erling Haaland will send Manchester City back to the title, and what comes next for Leicester and VAR after tough weekends.
Haaland is just unfair – he’s like a Bond villain
There are things happening this season that aren’t smooth sailing, but I predict Manchester City will win this league, and they could win it comfortably.
Erling Haaland is… it just seems a bit unfair. I remember when I watched James Bond movies when I was younger and there was the character Jaws, who was about 7ft 2in tall. He used to just pick people up and throw them down, and it’s a bit like that when you watch Haaland against strong centre-backs. You think, ‘wow, he’s just unplayable – how do you even deal with him in the box?’.
The only thing I would say is that Haaland’s career at City will probably prolong his overall career because he’s just standing there. The way Manchester City play, with that possession they keep, you never really see it stretching teams except when they have one or two up front.
I just have to say that I’m massively impressed with him. It’s the first time we’ve signed what I think is one of the top two or three players in the world going forward. Usually these players go to Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid or Barcelona. Cristiano Ronaldo, when he became the best player in the world here [at Manchester United] or maybe Thierry Henry at Arsenal, they didn’t sign as hopes of being the best player in the world, they just grew to be when they were here.
But this player – you fully anticipate that he will go on and win the Ballon d’Or and be the best player in the world. It’s exciting – it hasn’t happened for quite a while in the Premier League.
Malacia embodies the rebuilding of Man Utd
Kudos to Erik ten Hag. The manager has to take credit for what he did that week between Brentford and Liverpool because I thought they would have been beaten and hard to recover. To do what he did between Brentford and Liverpool and get the result was something special as a recovery.
And then on great sunday, I think they played against a very good Arsenal team. I have to say Arsenal showed a spirit at Old Trafford. We covered Arsenal for 10-12 years and walked away from them and walked away, ‘they’re a flaky crowd, they’re a soft bunch’. It’s a very good team.
Arsenal and United are not the two best teams in the league from what has happened to them in recent years, but I must say they are much closer to what I thought they would be a few weeks ago .
Some would say it’s the manager. Some people will say these are the changes that have been made when it comes to Cristiano Ronaldo and Harry Maguire. Do you know something? I will point out one little thing I saw in the second half of the Brentford game and that was Tyrell Malacia. Someone in the field with a bit of personality, fighting, and wit.
And to be fair to Lisandro Martinez who wasn’t on the pitch in the second half against Brentford because he was substituted. But against Liverpool there was a certain tenacity and from there what you see is that Diogo Dalot is much more aggressive. Midfielders are a bit more aggressive. It only takes one to show leadership, it doesn’t have to be the crier or the captain.
Man United, two or three weeks ago I thought they were beaten. And I said if they don’t get added to this squad after Brentford, they’ll end up in the bottom half of the table. They won’t finish in the bottom half of the table now, they won’t win the league. But they may have a better season than we all imagined. They had to spend £230m to make it happen.
VAR had a shocking weekend
VAR had a very, very bad weekend and that brought him back to the fore. People who are against it and think it destroys the ethics of the game, they now obviously have something to do. It’s not going away, let’s be very clear. What they will have to do is just improve.
We forget how many times VAR is right with offsides and other decisions where we take it for granted. There will always be these subjectives by which they will be thrown to the side of the field.
Now we’ve transferred some of that pressure to VAR, so I have to say, whichever way you look at it, we’re now talking about whether the actual stoppage of play is the reason. The fact that we have to watch it 20 times is something the fans don’t like. I’m a fan of more precise decision-making and I’m a fan of technology in sports, but what I’m not a fan of is giving fans a game they don’t like as much.
One of the biggest problems is that VAR referees are sitting remotely in a studio 250 miles away, completely detached from the thrill of the game and being asked to make a decision. I think it’s really difficult. When I went to Stockley Park to watch VAR with Carra [Jamie Carragher] before it was introduced and I think: the stadium bounces, a referee on the field gets a sense of the mood of the game and then they go to this very cold disinfected studio 300 miles away and he watches replays?
He’s probably having a cup of tea one minute, watching the game the next – I’m sure he’s more alert than that – but that’s not okay, that’s the part I struggle with a bit.
I think things were working a lot better so it’s just a setback this weekend but it’s a bad move because there’s a big noise against it and it’s not going to go away but VAR no anymore – they’re not going to scrap it.
It has sometimes worked better abroad than in Canada. We have to improve, but we are improving. Some of the refereeing performances I’ve seen have been absolutely brilliant, but VAR had a shocking weekend. We’ve all had them.
I worry about Rodgers and Leicester
I really worry about Leicester. I must say that at the beginning of the season, when Kasper Schmeichel went to Nice, I said to myself ‘why was this one sanctioned?’. Schmeichel is not only a very good goalkeeper, but you can imagine the presence and the impact he would have on this dressing room, and the comfort he would bring to everyone.
You can’t replace that easily, you just can’t. They’ve already lost Harry Maguire, they’ve lost N’Golo Kante, Riyad Mahrez – but I just thought that was a weird thing to do. So obviously Wesley Fofana is also gone – I’d be worried if I was a Leicester fan.
There are rumors that the manager is in trouble. Brendan Rodgers did a brilliant job there. He expected the window to be better – I think everyone did. Leicester have been like Brighton: when they let players go, they brought in new ones. But you look at what’s going on there now and I’m worried about Brendan, and I’m worried about Leicester.
They look a bit distressed and it doesn’t seem like it’s right there. When you demoralize a locker room and a technical staff with the players who leave, it’s very difficult to recover that.