Paul Scholes has insisted that Manchester United will need to demonstrate their worth against the bigger sides in the Premier League if they are to be judged as serious title contenders.
Jose Mourinho’s men slumped to sixth spot last season after failing to win away against any of the top five, scoring just once on their travels.
And despite their free-scoring form against lesser sides, performances at both Anfield and Stamford Bridge have revealed that their malaise against the top dogs is by no means a thing of the past.
Speaking on BT Sport following Man United’s 4-2 win over Watford, Scholes noted that they would need to produce a similar performance at the Emirates this weekend to compete with Manchester City.
“I think where they are going to be judged now is in the big games,” he said. “They have to start winning these games, because they haven’t really.”
“The Liverpool game away [a goalless draw], they were poor. The Chelsea game [a 1-0 defeat], they were poor again. Saturday against Arsenal is a big game and they have to turn up.
“It’s very difficult to criticise when you’re winning games, especially when you’re scoring four goals. But they’ve really got to turn up in these big games and win some of them.”
United have scored four goals on eight occasions this season and have ten more than the ‘exciting’ Tottenham Hotspur, but you sense that whether or they can reproduce such goalscoring prowess on the road against the bigger sides will strongly dictate the nature of their challenge to Manchester City.
Mourinho’s attitude in big games has been perhaps overly pragmatic, with the Portuguese looking to outwit and grind down his opponent rather than smash through them.
But with Pep Guardiola doing exactly that across the road, a benchmark has been set, and United simply need to start dominating these big games before we can meaningfully discuss a title challenge.