Gary Neville and Roy Keane on Manchester United's huge step
Manchester United's 2-0 win over Manchester City boosts Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's hopes of Champions League qualification
Last Updated: 09/03/20 3:22pm
Gary Neville and Roy Keane have hailed Manchester United’s 'huge step' forward after winning the derby against Manchester City.
United completed a league double over City with a 2-0 win at Old Trafford on Super Sunday.
Anthony Martial's well-worked opener gave Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side a first-half lead and substitute Scott McTominay's strike from distance sealed the victory late on.
- Man United 2-0 Man City - Match report and highlights
- Premier League Table | Fixtures | Top scorers
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The three points move United back up to fifth but the significance of such a confidence-boosting performance could be far greater, according to Neville.
"There are not many times in recent years where I have seen the stadium bouncing like that where the whole stadium is at it," he told Sky Sports.
"I have not seen it like this for a long time. A rare moment. But it was a good day for United and they needed it as well.
"It still doesn't give them what they want in terms of a Champions League place or a top-four finish but something like that was a big moment for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and those players."
Keane: United have to follow it up
Keane shared the view that the atmosphere at Old Trafford was extraordinary and argued that this could prove to be a big moment for Solskjaer.
"It's was brilliant, electric," Keane told Sky Sports. "I think the fans needed that today. It was dogged - not pretty - but United showed a lot of pride and spirit. The goal at the end was fantastic. I've not seen the atmosphere like that for a long time.
"There's a long way back but it was a huge step. I've given City huge praise over the last few years, which is not easy to do, but I felt like it meant more to United today than City. For all City's possession, they weren't dangerous with it. It was all in front of United.
"They've been under a lot of pressure and criticism. I've been critical but United have done well today. It's a big boost for Ole. The atmosphere was fantastic. But when you get a big win you have to follow it up."
United's midfield transformed
The key for United is that with players such as Bruno Fernandes, who was instrumental in creating Martial's goal, they now have a bit more belief that they can follow it up.
"I was thinking about United's midfield and I think universally United fans would say that it has been pathetic for 18 months," added Neville.
"But you look at McTominay, you look at Fred, you look at Nemanja Matic who looks a different player, and you look at Bruno, and all of a sudden United have a midfield when it had been non-existent.
"Are they the best group of Manchester United players that have been here even in the last eight years? No, not for a talent. But they are a far easier group to like because they want to be here."
Will United make the top four now?
United's win takes them within three points of Chelsea in fourth and they are now just five points adrift of Leicester in third place.
Given United's forthcoming fixtures - only three of their remaining nine Premier League games are against top-half teams - there is every reason for optimism now.
Should Leicester be in their sights?
"Absolutely," insisted Neville. "Manchester United have got a game against Tottenham next week and that is a big match because if Tottenham win they go within a point of United.
"Then United have, on paper, a favourable run of fixtures which they should be happy about."
Manchester United's remaining fixtures
Mar 15 – Tottenham (a)
Apr 4 – Brighton (a)
Apr 11 – Bournemouth (h)
Apr 19 – Aston Villa (a)
Apr 25 – Southampton (h)
May 2 – Crystal Palace (a)
May 9 – West Ham (a)
May 17 – Leicester (a)
TBC – Sheffield United (h)
"You want to be careful about writing these teams off but you have to remind these players who are playing for Manchester United that they are playing for Manchester United.
"There is a responsibility and pressure to win football matches and when you look at those fixtures they certainly shouldn't be frightened of anything.
"Go and try to win as many matches as you can and the table should take care of itself. I think they have got more than enough quality to chase Leicester down let alone Chelsea."
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Can United break teams down now?
Many of United's remaining games will require a very different game plan to the one that they implemented in beating City. But perhaps Solskjaer is now better placed to break down bottom-half teams than before the January transfer window.
"I think Fernandes coming into the team makes them a lot stronger in that department," argued Neville. "And if you have got games against Brighton and Bournemouth then you can bring in players like Juan Mata in again.
"Where Mata struggles is on the counter-attack. When they are dominating possession then you can afford to play Mata and Fernandes and then you have got people who can create."