Gary Neville assesses whether Manchester United's season should be hailed as a success
Gary Neville has suggested Jose Mourinho’s claims that his Manchester United have enjoyed a successful season will only be confirmed if his side win the FA Cup final against Chelsea on Saturday.
Mourinho was lauding his side’s accomplishments as they finished the season 19 points behind runaway champions Manchester City on Sunday, as he suggested criticism of his side’s efforts has been misplaced.
“The best position for the past five years, a huge amount of points that normally would give a fight for the title, lots of clean sheets, the Golden Glove (most clean sheets for United keeper David De Gea), more goals than last season and the second-best team in the country,” he declared after a 1-0 win against Watford on Sunday.
“Also, we are one of the two best teams in the FA Cup. If you want to read the season in a positive way, you can.”
Mourinho’s upbeat version of United’s season will divide opinions in a season when the brand of football he promotes has bene a constant source of frustration and club legend Neville suggesting the season will only be hailed as a success if the FA Cup is won this weekend.
“The FA Cup final next Saturday against Chelsea will ultimately decide whether this season is seen as progression or not for Manchester United,” Neville told Sky Sports.
“In the league, which is where everybody wants to be measured, you have to say that second is progression from where Manchester United have been, but it’s not a successful season for Manchester United when you don’t win the league.
“That’s the measure of the club and has been for 60, 70, 80 years, it has to be the league title you are measured by, but to keep winning trophies would show they are still a club that are winning things and keeping that winning mentality.
“Manchester City have had the most outstanding of seasons and Jose Mourinho measures himself by title wins, not finishing second.
“I am sure if they win the FA Cup then as a fan I would think ‘yeah, win a trophy, finish second’, it’s the first time that has happened since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, but then go and win the title. That is what every Manchester United fan wants and what Jose Mourinho wants.”
Neville went on to assess how United can close the gap on City next season, with Neville suggesting big changes are on the horizon as Mourinho looks to shake up his first team squad.
“The question at Manchester United is which players do you keep and which don’t you keep,” he added. “Who are the ones that Jose Mourinho thinks don’t have the mentality and who are the ones he feels do have it?
“I am confused by that, and Jose Mourinho probably is at times too, because the performance levels are up and down so much. It’s not just game to game but half to half. Look at the games against Manchester City and Crystal Palace, you see them at such a low and then such a high.
“He has mentioned mentality a lot in the last few weeks and I am convinced it’s because of those peaks and troughs coming so unexpectedly. You think how have they gone that low, and then here’s something else.
“He will want to make sure that is gone. That usually goes by having characters in the dressing room not letting the standards drop and making sure he has two, three, four players added to the squad. People who know how to win and don’t drop their standards week in, week out.
“That’s what Manchester City have been this season, they have been consistent. Manchester United have had a good season in the league in finishing second but it has been inconsistent and they have dipped at times. They have lost against all three promoted teams, that’s nine points. That’s an attack for next season. There are nine points you need to sort out and then you work away at the others and the big gap.”