Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville gives his reaction to Manchester United’s 4-2 win over Leeds and says next month will define the season for Ralf Rangnick’s side.
United took a 2-0 half-time lead at Elland Road on great sunday, but were overtaken by two goals in less than a minute from Rodrigo and Raphinha. They rallied to survive a scare, however, and extended their unbeaten streak to seven games.
Neville explained how United needed to cut out those “crazy moments; those five-minute periods where they concede two goals” and how the next month is crucial to any hope of finishing in the top four and progressing in the Champions League.
He also spoke of his belief that caretaker boss Ralf Rangnick will not get the job at Old Trafford permanently this summer, but is in the strongest position to help decide 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 have vulnerabilities. David De Gea made 92 saves, which is the most in the Premier League, with Leeds goalkeeper Illan Meslier second. This is not a good reflection on these teams. Manchester United must become more difficult to face.
They face Atletico Madrid on Wednesday; they have Tottenham, Liverpool, Manchester City to come. It’s a big month and this month is going to define the season in terms of finishing in the top four and progressing in the Champions League.
There are a lot of things that come out continuously: the captain, who they want as the next manager, cliques in the locker room. All that stuff comes out, but they keep having those big moments in games where their brilliant players can still deliver for them and they win games in moments.
But the test is now next month. This period was always going to come and it is here. It was the start and I thought it was a really tough game. Leeds are a team that invites you to try and score goals against them, but it’s still one of the toughest places to come for Manchester United.
They have to stop those crazy moments, those five-minute periods where they concede two goals, because if you concede two against City, Liverpool or Atletico, you’re out of the game. I think that’s [the game against Leeds] is a warning sign.
Manchester United needed those points in the bag. It’s inconceivable that coming out of Tottenham at home, Manchester City away and Liverpool away they 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. These are the type of games in any season in the last five or ten years that you could lose.
If you are Ralf Rangnick you have to plan that you are going to drop points in these three matches, not that you expected or wanted to, but it could happen. Those points he got from these last games will be needed. Arsenal still have games in hand, as do Tottenham. There’s still a long way to go, but Manchester United are in a decent position.
If you had told me when Rangnick took over with the dating streak they have, that’s where I wish they were, maybe a point or two ahead. I still don’t think it’s straightforward and I still think it could turn around pretty quickly because I don’t think it’s stable behind the scenes at all.
I’m looking forward to Madrid on Wednesday and hope Manchester United can put on a good game, but they have to come back and do business at the weekend. It’s really important that they get that fourth place.
“Rangnick won’t get the job, but he’s in the best position to decide who will.”
It’s decidedly different [to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s regime], there is no doubt. I think Rangnick found it harder than he first imagined. The streak of results has been good during his tenure so far and the matches have been good as well, but he did what he had to do in the matches.
I don’t think he gets the job at the end of the season, come what may, now. I think there was maybe a feeling at the beginning that it could happen; it will not 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 is a very good view of the characters, personalities, performance levels and training levels of the current group of players he is therefore in a strong position to advise. He is probably in the best position to advise them because he is in daily contact with them. He sees how they deal with disappointment, how they deal with atmospheres, how they deal with big games, how they deal with training; can they meet the requirements of the club? Do they have the quality?
People say he’s a sporting director and a coach, but the reality is that his coaching job is short-term; his position as the club’s assistant, building its new methodology and structure moving forward is a longer-term position for two years. I’d rather he did this piece; I prefer to suffer in the short term because the longer term perspective is fair. He has a good experience in building structures in football clubs and Manchester United needs him.
In the summer, they have big appointments to make, namely the manager. The manager has to be right next season to be able to face Tuchel, Guardiola and Klopp because if you don’t face these three with a manager who can face them in the same way, you will be beaten. It has been proven over the past few years that great managers in this league will bring you great things; Manchester United need a great manager to compete with those who are at this level in this league right now.
Man Utd’s next matches
Atletico Madrid (away) – February 23, Champions League round of 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 Round of 16 second leg
Liverpool (away) – March 20 – Premier League, live on Sky Sports
Watch highlights from all four Premier League games midweek – including Liverpool v Leeds and Burnley v Spurs on Wednesday – free on SkySports.com and the Sky Sports app shortly after full-time.
Watch Soccer Special on Sky Sports PL and SSN from 7 p.m. Wednesday.