Defeat to Leicester City in the FA Cup quarter-finals means Manchester United have missed out on a great opportunity to win a trophy this season, with their priority now to ensure they finish as close to champions-elect Man City as possible, says Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville.
United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made five changes at the King Power Stadium, only for the visitors to suffer a disappointing 3-1 loss that now means their only chance of silverware this season is the Europa League.
Neville was surprised by Solskjaer’s changes at Leicester, especially given the winners of that tie faced Southampton in the semi-finals, and he has now urged United to finish the season strongly by winning the Europa League and finishing as near to City in the final league standings as possible…
‘Surprised Solskjaer rotated as much’
It had been a good week. Not surprising that they go to Milan and did what they did, they are good away from home, then beating West Ham last week.
I’m surprised the team was weakened against Leicester, I’m surprised he rotated as much, I know he has been doing that, but this was a real chance. If you think the semi-final draw that occurred at half-time of that game which meant the winner of the Leicester vs Manchester United tie would play Southampton.
And you just thought… It is not a gimmie against Southampton by any stretch of the imagination, but what an opportunity and I genuinely believe that that group of players need to win a trophy under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
‘Winning a trophy a real priority’
Yes, of course finishing second would be the priority at the start of the season, but winning a trophy with that would be a real priority and now they only have the Europa League left. Leicester have a decent record, but I was in the car listening to it on the radio and they go behind and you think ‘here we go’ and you are not surprised with United, but they got back in the game and then you see the second and third ones and you think that could be a massive missed opportunity.
I am demoralised a little bit as a Manchester United fan as I thought that was a really good one to go for this season. Also, there comes a point when if you are going to catch Manchester City, you have to beat them in a big game in a big competition.
Spurs have got that opportunity in a few weeks in a final and if Man City are to get to another final – they obviously still have to beat Chelsea – then Manchester United have to be there to stop them. You cannot rely on other teams to stop them and if you are the second-best team in the country, you have a half-decent record against City, which Ole Gunnar Solskjaer does, then you have to be there and be the ones to stop them.
I am demoralised a little bit as a Manchester United fan as I thought that was a really good one to go for this season
If you think about 1999, when Arsenal had won the Double the year before, we were the only side who could stop them in the semi-final at Villa Park and we did stop them, it was hard work, but we stopped them.
The same in the league, you can’t rely on other teams to stop them for you, if you want to catch teams, you have to leave one on them, and I was disappointed with that against Leicester, I know Man Utd fans are, I’ve seen the reaction on social media.
‘United must finish a good second, not a bad second’
I still think Man Utd are the second-best team in the country, it could be under threat (their current league position), but I just feel United will have enough to get there in the end and I think at the end of this season, the purpose of Man Utd, I said it a few weeks ago, is to finish a good second, not a bad second.
To finish below second would be a real disappointment, but the position they are in now is to finish as close to Manchester City as possible, it does matter how close you finish to them because it is played back at the end of the season – “oh you finished 16 points off them, 26 points off them…” You have to try and get to within single figures so that you then think, “where could we make up those four points, those eight points?”
And you can see that, you can visualise it. When we used to lose leagues, we thought, “OK, so where could we put this right? Was it our away form? Did we get two or three players sent off in certain games and drop points?”
And you can point towards it, but when you are 16, 17 points behind, there is no point looking, whereas actually when you are a few points away, within say seven, or eight, or nine, you can think, “Yes, Crystal Palace at home, Sheffield United, I think we can turn them ones around.”
So that is why it is really important they finish in a strong second place, but let’s see what happens…
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