Thursday 19 October 2017

Phil Neville: Manchester United need more ruthless streak to challenge for title

Phil Neville is an ambassador for the 2017 McDonald's Football Mum of the Year award
Phil Neville is an ambassador for the 2017 McDonald's Football Mum of the Year award

Former Manchester United defender Phil Neville has no doubt the Red Devils need to show more ruthlessness - but feels they are not far off being a side good enough to win the Premier League.

United were held 0-0 by West Brom on Saturday - their eighth home draw in the league this season - and their attack was criticised afterwards by boss Jose Mourinho.

With 10 league matches left this term, the Old Trafford outfit are fifth, five points behind fourth-placed Manchester City and 16 behind leaders Chelsea, each of whom have played a game more.

Neville is sure United's conversion rate will be "driving Mourinho up the wall".

But he thinks they have significantly improved under the Portuguese and that they are only "maybe one or two players away from being a championship-winning team".

Neville - an ambassador for the 2017 McDonald's Football Mum of the Year award - told Press Association Sport ahead of United's home clash with Everton on Tuesday: "I think they will make the top four.

"But it is ultimately down to whether they are going to start taking their chances.

"It looks to me, particularly in the first half of games, that they get chances and it's like 'don't worry, we'll score the next one'. In football it doesn't work like that - you have to be ruthless.

"Jose will be so frustrated because you look at those eight draws and, say they won five of those, you are talking about United being the closest challengers to Chelsea. Not converting their chances will be absolutely driving Mourinho up the wall.

"He will be looking at the development of this team, and it has come a long way from what we saw last year (under Louis van Gaal).

"They are 19 games unbeaten in the league. I know there have been the draws, but that is progress, a team going in the right direction.

"He will be thinking 'we're not that far away' even though they are fifth and a long way off Chelsea.

"Even though there is a big points gap, I don't think in terms of actual performance levels United are that far away from Chelsea.

"He will be getting angry about the situation now because they are so close, I think. They are maybe one or two players away from being a championship-winning team."

United face a seventh-placed Everton side who have the league's top-scorer, 21-goal striker Romelu Lukaku.

The Belgian has told the Toffees he will not sign the new contract they have offered him, and he has been linked with his old club Chelsea as well as United.

Lukaku goes into Tuesday's contest after producing a disappointing performance in the 3-1 Merseyside derby defeat at Liverpool on Saturday.

And Neville, who played for Everton for eight years from 2005 after a decade in United's team, said of the 23-year-old's possible suitors: "I would want probably better performances from him than what I have seen in most big games this season.

"If I was at a top club, you assess players in the real big games - that is a barometer I always think of a player's quality.

"And if you are looking at Romelu Lukaku in big games this season for Everton, I think he has been a bit of a let down.

"There will be interest because his goal-scoring record is phenomenal. He is only 23 and he is getting better.

"But I still think there is a long way to go in terms of the progress, and I think to progress even further, he should keep his head down at Everton and try to get them into that top four."

:: Phil Neville was speaking on Monday about the impact mums have on grassroots football as part of the 2017 McDonald's Football Mum of the Year award. Nominate a deserving mum now at www.mcdonalds.co.uk/awards

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