Despite a gaping 33-point chasm that recently existed between the two teams last season, Gary Neville has predicted that Manchester United to finish higher than Liverpool – we can’t tell if he is joking either.
The reigning Premier League champions cantered to a 19th league title leaving all of their rivals in their dust following a record-breaking campaign from Jurgen Klopp’s side.
Speaking to Stadium Astro when asked to predict the top four for the 2020/21 season, Neville responded: “I’m going to go Man City, Man United, Liverpool and Chelsea, but that’s with a little bit of hope rather than science.
“Finishing third last season was a big moment for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. That demonstrated progression. I think he has to break that top-two or get close to that top-two and get close to the title. The fans want to see progression and Manchester United have to continue to progress.”
It is easy to wonder if this is just a cheap shot to get Liverpool supporters rattled or whether the Sky Sports pundit is making a legitimate prediction for next season.
The former United captain hasn’t gone the whole hog and claimed United are right-up going to win the league next season after his prediction backed Pep Guardiola to reclaim the league with Liverpool dropping into third.
It is important to remember that Liverpool and United have both just made one solitary signing this summer and more tellingly, the bulk of Klopp’s PL-winning squad remains firmly intact.
United, to their credit, finished the 2019/20 really strongly with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side unbeaten over their final 14 league matches.
But let us not forget, United have to close a 33-point gap between themselves and Liverpool. While it is likely that the gap will be significantly be reduced next season we feel it is pretty premature to make such a claim given the fact that Klopp’s team set the division ablaze last time out.
If we are going to take Neville’s comments seriously it is safe to assume United will need more than just Donny van de Beek to reduce the gulf between the two teams next season.
Indeed, we must consider that the signing of Bruno Fernandes alone effectively made United a top-three team again which could put them in good stead for a title challenge in the 2020/21 campaign.
However, what has been most significant in recent teams surrendering their titles the following season has been the effect of significant departures.
Manchester city lost and failed to replace iconic club captain Vincent Kompany while previous champions Chelsea also allowed two key players in the form of Diego Costa and Nemanja Matic to leave the club.
Liverpool have maintained their best players and none are at an age to suggest there will be a drop off next season.
Yes, Liverpool could have done more in the transfer window but the reality is that it is practically impossible to improve the club’s pedigreed XI which puts an emphasis on whose squad is stronger.
United could still add Jadon Sancho or Dayat Upamecano to their ranks which if that were the case would make Neville’s claim less premature.
Liverpool themselves can still make signings and if the club were to get Thiago Alcantara at Anfield for next season then as Wayne Rooney rightly pointed out – Klopp’s men will certainly take some stopping.
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