Gary Neville has told Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag he needs to keep his players fit to be in with a chance of finishing in the top four. The Red Devils moved to within six points of fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur with a 2-1 win against fifth-placed Aston Villa today (February 11).
Ten Hag has dealt with an injury curse throughout the season but fielded perhaps his strongest side possible bar Lisandro Martinez. His men sealed a vital victory against Villa with Rasmus Hojlund and Scott McTominay on the scoresheet at Villa Park.
There may be five spots available to Premier League clubs for next season’s UEFA Champions League. Sky Sports presenter Kelly Cates claims there’s a 77% chance of fifth place becoming a Champions League spot.
Cates asked Neville whether Manchester United can finish in either the top four or in fifth place over the next 14 games. They trail Unai Emery’s side by five points after their win today. He replied:
“They can definitely claw it back because they were appalling first half of the season, the results were shocking and they lost so many matches it’s untrue.”
However, the former Red Devils captain thinks United are in with a shout if they can keep their players fit:
“If they can keep their players fit, which is a big question mark because it looks like they’ve lost another two in Shaw and Martinez in the last week, then they have got a chance.”
Lisandro Martinez is set for months on the sidelines after picking up a knee injury in a 3-0 win against West Ham United (February 4). Luke Shaw was forced off at halftime of the victory against Villa with Ten Hag giving an update post-match.
However, Neville likes what he’s seen from Manchester United’s new frontline of Marcus Rashford, Rasmus Hojlund, and Alejandro Garnacho but still isn’t overly impressed:
“They’re certainly better when they’ve got that sort of strength in their team. The front three looks more settled in Rashford, Garnacho, and Hojlund with (Bruno) Fernandes in behind. So they’re better than they were but they’re still not great… They do have players that can win matches and they’re a bit of an odd bunch.”
Manchester United have a winnable set of league fixtures on the horizon. They face Luton Town (February 18) and Fulham (February 26) but do travel to reigning champions Manchester City (March 3).
Erik ten Hag hails Scott McTominay following his winner for Manchester United against Aston Villa
McTominay was Manchester United’s savior as he has been on so many occasions this season. The Scottish midfielder came off the bench to score a late header to give his side all three points at Villa Park.
It was the 27-year-old’s seventh goal of the Premier League season and he’s proven to be somewhat of a superb sub. His manager was delighted with his match-winning cameo appearance (via transfer expert Fabrizio Romano):
“You have to credit a player like Scott McTominay. He is an example for many players these days. There are not many players any more who are ready for every minute they can be on the pitch.”
McTominay has popped up with many crucial winners this season, including two stoppage-time goals in a 2-1 comeback win against Brentford (October 7). He’s had to settle for a place on the bench with Ten Hag preferring the likes of Casemiro and Kobbie Mainoo from the off.