Gary Neville has delivered his verdict on why Man Utd have ran away with the Premier League title this year. Speaking in the Independent, Neville drills down into the details of why City’s campaign has gone wrong.
The former United defender has increased his popularity and standing with the public, after a successful season in front of the cameras as the main pundit on Sky Sports, as well as coaching the England team under Roy Hodgson.
Firstly, Neville dismisses the fact that superstar striker Robin Van Persie chose to join United instead of City. Despite the Dutchman scoring 19 Premier League goals this season, Neville says he has not been the big difference between the sides.
No one gets to the by line
He pinpoints a few key differences between the clubs’ management. Firstly he points out that while City have several skilful passers of the ball, they lack any tricky wingers capable of getting to the by line. David Silva, Samir Nasri, Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez are all similar in style, concentrating on precise passing and movement.
All are more comfortable playing in the middle of the pitch, leaving the full backs to provide the width. City let Adam Johnson, the only real old fashioned winger they had in the squad, go to Sunderland in the summer.
Neville said: “On those occasions when the passing game isn’t quite right, City haven’t got the Plan B. In football terms, when you haven’t got real counter-attacking pace that can become a problem.”
In contrast, United can call on Antonio Valencia, Nani and Ashley Young, all genuine widemen with the skills, speed and confidence to beat their man on the outside and pull the ball back.
Human nature for City to drop off after last year
Secondly, Neville thinks that Man City’s players may have lost that psychological edge this season after winning the league in such dramatic style.
He commented: “A huge weight was lifted off the shoulders of the club last May and I suppose in some ways you could argue it’s human nature for some at City just to go: ‘Wow. We did it. We got there’.”
The fact that they achieved their goal of lifting the title last season could well have taken that bit of hunger from City’s players.
Again, on the other side of the City, United will have been completely focused and committed to regaining their title, having seen it snatched from them so painfully on the last day last season.
This type of psychological edge can be the dividing factor when two squads of such depth and quality go head to head over a whole season.
They’ve not created a player in the last five years
The last point that Neville makes, is that City will struggle to keep pace with United over the next few years, if they don’t put some faith in their young players.
Sir Alex Ferguson has had several young players in his team every week. David de Gea, Rafael, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck are all key members of the United squad and have played their part in winning the club the Premiership. That experience will serve them throughout their careers, and they can draw on their experiences this year in future title races.
City have only Matija Nastasić who could be considered as a young player learning his trade in their first team. The rest are out on loan or reduced to bit parts in the League Cup to progress their careers. Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger are both famous for putting their faith in young players, and both have reaped the rewards. Whereas City have followed Chelsea’s approach, of spending big money on top players and farming their own youngsters out on loan.
Which is a process they will have to repeat summer after summer until they start developing some top players of their own.
Neville delivered a damning verdict on City’s current approach: “I don’t know why they’ve not created a player in the last five years. You’ve got to create the pathway and at the moment I don’t see that pathway at City, whether the players are good enough or not.”