Exclusive – Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher have both backed Manchester United to qualify for the Champions League next season by seeing off the competition when the Premier League campaign resumes, while the latter thinks Tottenham’s spell as a title challenger in recent years is now over.
The race for a top four, or potentially top five place if Manchester City lose their CAS appeal against a UEFA ban, is fierce. Chelsea, Manchester United, Wolves, Sheffield United, Tottenham and Arsenal are separated by eight points and battling for only a couple of places.
When games restart as of this week, Neville and Carragher both see a resurgent United, with players who were injured before the season was halted returning to action, managing it.
A big early test for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team is their opening game against Tottenham this week.
“I think Manchester United will get it. I think they’ll just do enough. I think Tottenham have to beat United on Friday night, I think Jose sees this as a big chance,” Carragher said in an interview with 90min.
“I think he’ll see nine games to get the Champions League, that’s why he’s been pushing lockdown rules training the players, but I think if United don’t lose that game…
“I think Sheffield United will lose games, with the momentum they had and the players United have got coming back – I think United will make it a top five and if City get chucked out of the Champions League then United are there. But if Tottenham beat them on Friday night then it’s game on.”
Neville labelled the game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium ‘huge’ for both clubs.
“There’ll be a massive focus on City vs Arsenal and the title, and Liverpool and Everton, but we know that’s a foregone conclusion,” the ex-United captain said. “The big thing is, really, if City beat Arsenal, and Tottenham beat United or United beat Tottenham, it’s going to put those two clubs who win those two matches [in a good position]. We’re going to know a lot by Sunday.
“That’s the good thing about what we’re doing here. It’s not pre-season, it’s not half way through the season where you’ve got a long way to go; we’re going to be determining major decisions on relegation and promotion.”
Neville insisted the attacking talent at Solskjaer’s disposal will be the difference in the end.
“I think United will do it – I’ve just got this feeling that when [Paul] Pogba and [Bruno] Fernandes walk out there, together, with [Marcus] Rashford, [Anthony] Martial, [and Mason] Greenwood, I just think they’ll do very well together.
“In some ways, you think about pre-season games, these players play like they’re relaxed all the time anyway, they’ve got fantastic abilities and confidence on the ball, the pitches will be perfect, the weather’s warmer, I just think Pogba and Fernandes in midfield will be outstanding.”
Liverpool will wrap up a first league title in 30 years if they win their next two games, or sooner if Manchester City lose to Arsenal on Wednesday. The Reds have blown away the rest of the league in 2019/20 and the question is now who can catch them in 2020/21?
The Sky Sports pundits are mixed on their opinion. Neville still considers Manchester City the biggest threat to Liverpool, while suggesting Chelsea could come back into the equation.
Carragher, while also believing City will remain a contender, suggests United will be the ones to lead the chase. The bad news for Tottenham is that he thinks their time as a challenger is over.
“City or United,” the Liverpool legend said. “I think Leicester are doing the most they can, but to be honest I think Tottenham’s chances of winning the league now have gone – they’re just going back to being a challenger for the top four, I don’t think that’s going to change.”
Neville commented: “You’d have to say City at the moment.
“It depends what Chelsea do. If Chelsea get the cheque book out, they’re not as far away as people would think. Ultimately, if coronavirus damages people’s ability to spend money, for two years, but the ones who can spend money like Chelsea, and if Chelsea spend really well, £150m each summer, they will make huge strides upon the clubs above them who don’t spend.”
The Premier League returns to Sky Sports with a double-header on Wednesday 17 June. Sky Sports and NOW TV will show 64 matches – 39 exclusive to subscribers and an extra 25 available on Sky’s free-to-air channel ‘Pick’