Gary Neville says Manchester United have the worst front three out of the top six clubs – and although performances have improved under Erik ten Hag, the club is not yet “back”.
United’s nine-game unbeaten run ended abruptly with a 3-1 humbling on Sunday at Aston Villa in Unai Emery’s first match in charge, leaving them three points off fourth-placed Tottenham.
Cristiano Ronaldo was named captain and started the match, supported by youngster Alejandro Garnacho and Marcus Rashford on the left and right flanks, but they failed to breach the Villa defence themselves as Jacob Ramsey scored an own goal for the visitors.
United have scored fewer goals than Arsenal, Manchester City, Tottenham and Liverpool, plus third-placed Newcastle and Brighton, in sixth, having only netted one more than Chelsea – and Sky Sports’ Neville reckons the club’s forwards aren’t as good as they should be.
“Overall, I’m not wholly convinced by this idea that Manchester United are back. They’re not,” said Neville on his podcast.
“They’re nowhere near Manchester City. They’re more watchable and have got a bit more fight. Eriksen has brought quality in midfield and Martinez at the back has brought tenacity – but he can’t keep a steady pair. That’s a problem.
“United’s front three are the weakest out of the top six. You think of Kulusevski-Kane-Son – United would take those three. Arsenal have Saka-Jesus-Martinelli. Liverpool have Nunez, Diaz, Jota, Salah and Firmino – you’d definitely choose three of them over what United have got. You’d take Chelsea’s even.
“United’s front players aren’t as good as they should be, although Erik ten Hag is getting the maximum out of them. I don’t know where the money has gone again – the spend over the past four or five years. There are signs that they are getting better, but they aren’t back.”
‘Arsenal have to do it at the business end’
Arsenal’s exciting frontline delivered again at Chelsea to keep them two points clear at the top with Mikel Arteta declaring they are title contenders. Neville is not convinced yet.
“We have to question them. Arsenal fans come at me every single week. I will continue to question them until I don’t see a moment like I did with five or six games to go last season,” said Neville.
“If they finish top it would be out of this world. They haven’t proven it yet. They are like a boxer who hasn’t won a title yet.
“Arteta is a coach that likes progressive football, they are a team who play through the thirds, they play great football. But the idea that they can also use a long-throw routine against Chelsea – I like it. The fact they won a game from a set-piece.
“It’s very, very early. We’ve got this unique season. We don’t know what is going to happen the other side. But Arsenal have been fantastic in this part of the season – they are the value team.
“I love watching their front players. I love Jesus, Saka and Martinelli. But I want to see it over 38 games. Let’s see what happens in 20 games time. But Arsenal are bang on to finish in the top four.
“If Arsenal finish second this season that would be a magnificent achievement for Mikel Arteta. I’m getting more confident by the week that it is going to happen for them. They have to do it at the business end.”