Gary Neville believes Manchester United must ‘find a spine’ if they are to compete with the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool at the top of the Premier League.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side finished sixth in the Premier League last season but added just three new players to the squad over the summer, securing the signings of Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James.
Manchester United boss Solskjaer has been praised this season for placing his faith in youth, though having been left with an unbalanced squad due to dysfunctional signings from previous regimes, the club are not expected to challenge this season.
Speaking on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football, Neville admitted that while he sees the potential in United’s young talent, he believes the spine of the side must improve, pointing to rivals Liverpool‘s signings of Alisson, Virgil van Dijk and Fabinho in particular as key reasons for the club’s transformation under Jurgen Klopp.
“The problem with United’s team is not the five young players on the pitch. The spine of the team is [David] De Gea, [Victor] Lindelof, [Harry] Maguire, [Nemanja] Matic, [Ashley] Young, [Juan] Mata. All the young players have massive potential.
— Harry Maguire (@HarryMaguire93) September 14, 2019
“Manchester United somehow have got to find a spine. All championship-winning teams have strong spines.
“Liverpool’s spine has come from [Virgil] Van Dijk at £75million, [Roberto] Firmino’s £30million, Alisson, a fantastic goalkeeper, and Fabinho. The recruitment has got to be good to support these players.
“Liverpool bought Van Dijk, Fabinho and Alisson and they were transformed overnight. Manchester United get the right three players in that group and they won’t be far away.”
United’s fortunes in recent seasons have been hindered by poor recruitment, with expensive additions such as Angel Di Maria and Alexis Sanchez having proven to be major disappointments at Old Trafford.
The club does seem to have shifted away from that policy of bringing in marquee additions with the signings of Wan-Bissaka and James in particular this summer, and Neville believes the club’s decision to target emerging talent marks a step forward for the club’s long-term prospects of success.
“I’ve been so critical of the recruitment in recent years. They’ve got to stop that. It looks like they’ve gone back to a strategy of signing young,” he added.
“United’s average age has gone down to 24, there are eight academy players in the squad. It’s a step backward but it’s one to go forward.’
“[Radamel] Falcao, [Angel] Di Maria, [Bastian] Schweinsteiger and [Alexis] Sanchez. They’ve spent and wasted tens and hundreds of millions of pounds on these players. They’ve got to stop that.
“United are basically going to have to have three or four good transfer windows.”
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