“Performances will catch you out eventually.”
There can be no doubt that, over the last month, the Premier League pendulum has swung towards the blue half of Manchester.
After a slow start to the season, Manchester City have embarked on an almighty tear. After dropping two points at home to West Brom on December 15, Pep Guardiola’s side have reeled off 16 straight wins in all competitions.
And their scintillating league form has seen them open up a seven-point gap on rivals Manchester United and Leicester City with a game in hand.
United’s dip in form.
Things have not been nearly as smooth for United since the turn of the year. After being dumped out of the League Cup semi-finals by City, United have dropped points against Liverpool, Sheffield United, Arsenal, Everton and West Brom.
And while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side were top for a while, Gary Neville insists he has never believed that United’s current crop would deliver the first league title in the post-Ferguson era.
“I never did really – even when we were top, I never once thought we were going to win the league,” Neville told Webby & O’Neill.
West Brom are off to a flying start! 🛫
Diagne puts the Baggies ahead within the first 90 seconds. In the words of @gnev2 he ‘mauls’ Lindelof!
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) February 14, 2021
“Performances will catch you out eventually. You can’t keep being inconsistent within matches, playing poorly for half an hour then well for half an hour.
“It used to be…you used to say about championship teams that they win when they play badly, but you can’t win when you play badly all the time.
“I’m not saying United have played badly all the time this season but there are so many performances within games where you think ‘what’s going on?’
All about ‘rhythm and performances’ – Gary Neville
“And all of a sudden they’ll produce a brilliant half an hour of football that you think ‘wow, that’s fantastic’ but more often than not, it’s been in moments.
“I keep saying you can’t win titles in moments where, during games, you’re digging in, you’re scrapping, it’s scruffy, then you go and win a game through a brilliant piece of magic from a great player – that happens, that happened when we were playing.
“But you’ve got to put performances together, rhythm and performances. Sir Alex always used to say to us ‘rhythm’.
“When you think about rhythm, you think about the team passing, and the team’s moving and it looks like it’s in flow and it’s defending well.”
— WebbyONeill (@WebbyONeill) February 14, 2021
Neville explained that while United have secured some impressive results this season, they have failed to capture the ‘real confidence’ that comes with a series of positive performances, adding that they lacked ‘belief’ in the scoreless draws against Liverpool and Arsenal.
“You know when a team’s at that stage and we’ve never gotten to that stage,” added Neville.
“The time I thought we looked most comfortable in a match in terms of having that rhythm and tempo in our passing was Everton.
Watch the full Neville interview with Webby & O’Neill above.
“I’m sat up there in the gantry and thinking ‘this is a good performance’. You know, I’m watching United some times in despair and thinking ‘come on, these performances are going to have to emerge and get better’.
“You’ve got good players, you’re winning and the results are coming, you’re top of the league, it’s about performance because with performances comes real confidence.
“Of course the results come with that as well, but to me, the inconsistency and lack of belief against Liverpool, Arsenal, Sheffield United was a freak (result), but Liverpool and Arsenal there was a lack of belief, to go that extra yard.
“They didn’t have it and I didn’t think they ever had it.”