GARY Neville has warned Manchester United will not be able to win the Premier League with a centre-back pairing of Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire and urged the Old Trafford hierarchy to prioritise signing a new central defender following their shock 3-1 defeat to Crystal Palace.
After sitting out the opening weekend of the new Premier League season, United were dismantled by a Wilfried Zaha-inspired Palace with the former United forward scoring twice.
Despite pursuing Jadon Sancho throughout the summer, Donny van de Beek remains United’s only signing with just two weeks remaining before the transfer window closes.
However, Neville is adamant that United ought to be prioritising a new defender ahead of Sancho or any other offensively-minded player.
“There is going to be big pressure on the back of this,” Neville said on Sky Sports.
“We can talk about Jadon Sancho all we like but until Manchester United get a centre-back who can run and defend one-on-ones they are never going to win the league. They are never going to win the Premier League with that centre-back pairing.
“They have to get a mobile, dominant centre-half in alongside either Lindelof or Maguire.”
According to the former United captain, Lindelof and Maguire simply lack the required speed to be a successful pairing.
“One area Man Utd need to try to strengthen is centre-back. But it has to be a quick one – someone who can defend one-on-ones,” Neville said during commentary.
“If you look at all the best centre-half partnerships down the years, they have always had a quick one.
“Old Trafford is a big pitch and particularly if your full-backs are going forward then you are going to leave your centre-halves one-on-one.
“Over the years, the best Man Utd centre-back partnerships have always had that really quick one – whether it be Jaap Stam or Rio Ferdinand or Gary Pallister – who has lightning pace to get across and snuff out the danger. Lindelof and Maguire just don’t have that.”
Pinpointing exactly where United need to strengthen, Neville added: “They need a centre-back, they need a left-back and they need a forward-striker.
“Without them, Man Utd are not going to close the gap. Chelsea have acted and Liverpool are acting – they are already stronger.
“This won’t have settled down the Man Utd fans who have been demanding more activity in the transfer market. The club just don’t seem able to get things done quickly enough or efficiently enough.”
The pressure on United to act in the transfer market had already been ratcheted up prior to kick-off as Tottenham announced the loan signing of Gareth Bale, while champions Liverpool completed a double deal to bring Diogo Jota and Thiago Alcantara to Anfield.
Assessing the contrast, Sky Sports’ Graeme Souness warned: “If Liverpool are going to be as consistent as they have been the last two years, and City surely are going to be more consistent, then United aren’t going to get anywhere near winning it.
“Is Donny van de Beek going to turn them from a team finishing third to one that is challenging throughout? I don’t think so. Liverpool are stronger today than they were 12 months ago, so they’ll still be the team to catch.
“I don’t see how Manchester United can get any better than third and I expect Chelsea to push them all the way.”
But it was former United defender Patrice Evra who delivered the line of the night with a withering denouncement of United’s inactivity in the transfer market: “United make more impact on social media than in reality. That is why the fans get disappointed and frustrated.” – Sky Sports