Gary Neville believes Manchester United can not claim to have enjoyed a successful Premier League season after finishing 19 points behind Manchester City.
Jose Mourinho’s men, having claimed second spot against West Ham United on Thursday night, finished the campaign with a 1-0 win over Watford that took them to 81 points.
That is by far and away Man United’s best points total in the post-Fergie era – which would have won them the league in 2011 – along with their best league finish since the Scot retired.
But Neville, speaking on Sky Sports on Sunday, noted that United cannot look back on a ‘successful’ Premier League campaign but one which did signal progress.
“In the league, which is where everybody wants to be measured, you have to say that second is progression from where Manchester United have been, but it’s not a successful season for Manchester United when you don’t win the league,” he said.
“That’s the measure of the club and has been for 60, 70, 80 years, it has to be the league title you are measured by.
“To keep winning trophies would show they are still a club that are winning things and keeping that winning mentality. Manchester City have had the most outstanding of seasons and Jose Mourinho measures himself by title wins, not finishing second. Manchester United have had a good season in the league in finishing second but it has been inconsistent and they have dipped at times.
“They have lost against all three promoted teams, that’s nine points. That’s an attack for next season. There are nine points you need to sort out and then you work away at the others and the big gap.”
This season United, under Mourinho, figured out how to win, and more notably how to defend. They are only the fourth team in Premier League history to beat all of their 19 opponents at least once over a single campaign; they have bested Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur when it comes to their record in big games.
And yet, at the end of it all, supporters are still left feeling a bit cold, a bit numb. Mourinho may have found a way to beat opponents this season, but he is yet to really sell himself – his way of winning – to supporters. That has to be the goal next time around.