Phil Neville has explained why Manchester United can still claim a top four spot this season, pointing towards their upcoming clash with Chelsea as a potential springboard for a big finish to the campaign.
Man United’s 3-0 win over Sunderland on Sunday afternoon took them to within four points of fourth-placed Manchester City with a game in hand.
Jose Mourinho’s men still have to take on Chelsea at home alongside visits to Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal before the end of the season.
And Neville, speaking on Sky Sports after United’s win on Sunday, noted that their chances of qualifying for the Champions League hinge on whether they can beat Antonio Conte’s men next weekend.
“I still think it’s an uphill task (finishing in the top four),” he said. “I thought they played well, a few players got confidence back.”
“But there’s a still a long way to go. He needs a big win, Jose.
“He needs a big game at Old Trafford and it’ll inspire the whole club and go on and finish in the top four.
“He’s not had that big win yet and perhaps next Sunday is the one.”
United’s record against the rest of the top six has been decidedly mediocre this season: an emphatic loss to Chelsea, a deserved defeat at home to Manchester City, frustrating draws with Arsenal and Liverpool make up their exploits against the big guns, with the only win coming against Tottenham Hotspur. Six points from a possible 18 does not make for promising reading.
This is indeed why their clash with Chelsea will essentially decide the path of their run-in. Anything less than a win against the Champions-elect will both set them further back in the race for Champions League spots and serve as another psychological barrier ahead of three big away games over the next month.