Gary Neville: The next month will define Man Utd's season

By Sports Desk February 21, 2022

Manchester United's season will be defined over the next month, according to former Red Devils captain Gary Neville.

United defeated Leeds United 4-2 on Sunday to extend their advantage over fifth-placed West Ham to four points as the top-four race for Champions League qualification continues to twist and turn.

Arsenal are down in sixth, also four points behind United, but the Gunners boast three games in hand heading into the crunch period of the Premier League campaign.

With trips to Manchester City and Liverpool to come in March, sandwiched by a home clash with Tottenham, Neville believes the upcoming month will be pivotal for Ralf Rangnick's side.

Speaking on his Sky Sports podcast, Neville said: "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.

"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.

"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. 

"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. 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."

Rangnick was appointed in the wake of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's departure from Old Trafford, with the German arriving on an interim basis with an agreement for a two-year consultancy role after.

There were some suggestions that Rangnick could continue in charge after the 2021-22 campaign, but Neville insisted that United will have a new manager in place for the following season.

"I don't think he gets the job at the end of the season, come what may, now," he added. 

"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.

"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.

"The manager has got to be right next season to be able to take on [Thomas] Tuchel, [Pep] Guardiola and [Jurgen] 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."

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