Gary Neville has told The Football Show Manchester United’s ‘very strong’ position in this summer transfer window will give them a better chance of mounting a league challenge next season.
Neville compared United’s situation with the wage deferrals taken on by some of Europe’s biggest clubs as the coronavirus has taken hold on football worldwide, where players at the likes of Barcelona and Juventus have delayed their wages to help their clubs deal with the financial impact of the pandemic.
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At Old Trafford, however, players are still receiving their full income while non-playing staff have also not been furloughed. Neville believes the financial position of his former club will give them a significant advantage in attracting the kind of talent they need to mount a title challenge in next season’s Premier League.
“If we hadn’t had this virus, I think Man Utd could’ve been two or three years away,” he said. “Where I think there is a massive change in making them competitive is if you were a top player in Europe at this moment in time, and you had the choice of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus, Liverpool, Manchester City, all those clubs, Manchester United would likely lose out on those players because of where they are in the cycle of the team.
“I think now, out of those eight clubs, I think six of them could be completely redundant in the transfer market in terms of spending £60m, £80m. Manchester United’s ability will still be there.
“United still need to add a few players of really high quality, and they are in a position to be able to capitalise this summer in the transfer market. They will be one of the clubs who still has some ability to do some business, and whereas in the past they’ve found it difficult to keep prices and wages down in the past eight years, they’ll be in a very strong position to hold their nerve this summer.
“This is a really important summer for Manchester United. If football can get back in the next few weeks, Manchester United can get back to how they were pre-lockdown, starting to keep clean sheets, the midfield looked like it was starting to tick and getting goals out of that front three, you start looking at the glass being half-full versus it being half-empty and being the 30 points or whatever off Liverpool, and the fact that they’re a million miles away.
“So I don’t know why it is, but I feel a little more confident in Manchester United’s ability to challenge next season just because of what’s happened, and the fact they started to play a lot better before this lockdown.”
Pogba’s United future could have changed
One player near constantly linked with a move away from Old Trafford in recent years has been Paul Pogba, but Neville believes the impact on rival clubs to bankroll major signings may make any wish the Frenchman may have of finding pastures new into a pipedream for the time being.
“The direction all season of Pogba’s career was always facing away from Manchester in the sense that there was so much speculation and his agent was coming out all the time,” he said. “And now with what’s happened, coronavirus and the economic reset in football, what clubs are going to be able to buy Paul Pogba for the reputed £80m, £100m fees that were being thrown around?
“Which clubs are going to be paying the huge wages he’s on at Manchester United? I’m not diminishing him as a player, I’m just talking about the economic situation the whole world finds itself in.
“Paul Pogba may have to, and may want to, sit at Manchester United for the next 12 to 18 months, and look at the fact he’s at a club he can play with Bruno Fernandes, Fred, (Scott) McTominay, Maguire, Wan-Bissaka, De Gea, Rashford, Greenwood, Rashford.”
Greenwood ‘a real star’
Asked whether Mason Greenwood’s emergence could save Manchester United another outlay having missed out on a Romelu Lukaku replacement in the summer and brought in only Odion Ighalo on loan in January, Neville said the 18-year-old was “the equal” of fellow United forward Marcus Rashford at the same age, and suggested the fallout of the coronavirus outbreak could aid his cause for inclusion.
“I think youth systems and producing your own players in the next two or three years will be the lifeblood of clubs,” he said.
“It’s a really difficult time for players at all levels, in terms of the ones out of contract, but there’s a massive opportunity for young players who have got ability to get driven into the first team.
“I think Mason Greenwood is an outstanding player, the equal of Rashford at his age, in some ways more composed and a bit more classy, less raw, he looks well above his age group in terms of his composure and his temperament.
“I think Manchester United have got a real star there. We’ve been wrong before, you talk about Adnan Januzaj, I thought he was going to be world-class, but I think Greenwood is going to be the real thing.”
Also speaking to The Football Show, United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said the enforced break caused by coronavirus may present an opportunity for Greenwood and team-mate Brandon Williams to become physically stronger at a crucial phase in their development.
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