Manchester United‘s players will face the biggest tests of their careers at the club when they play at Liverpool, according to former Red Devils defender Phil Neville.
United travel to Anfield to take on their fiercest rivals in a Saturday lunchtime Premier League clash, knowing a win would put them 10 points clear of the Reds in the table.
Playing in the hostile Merseyside atmosphere is the acid test for United stars, said Neville, who also said he wanted them to demonstrate they can be title front runners in their style of play, as well as in the result.
Playing in the hostile Merseyside atmosphere is the acid test for United stars, said Phil Neville
Neville wants United to show they can be title winners in their style as well as in the result
Speaking on Sky Sports, Neville said: ‘Going to Anfield is the ultimate test for a Manchester United player.
‘Last year Jose Mourinho played down expectations of winning the league, this year fans want a bit of pressure, they want to be talked about as title winners.
‘What Saturday will give us is a barometer – last year they did not beat the top sides. On Saturday I want to see a style that means that after the game we say there is a title winning side there.’
Neville feels Liverpool are trailing their rivals because of a lack of investment in defence
Neville also felt that Liverpool are trailing their rivals because of a lack of investment in defence, comparing their spending to that of a second division team.
While United have spent tens of millions on the likes of Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof, Liverpool have bought cheaper options, such as Ragnar Klavan, Joel Matip and Andrew Robertson.
Ex-England full back Neville feels Liverpool should have sold Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona in order to finance a full rebuild of their back four.
Neville feels Liverpool should have sold Philippe Coutinho to finance a rebuild of their defence
Neville said: ‘The front six look good, but defensively, and the goalkeeper, he has not addressed that situation. I think he really missed a massive thing in the summer by not selling Coutinho.
‘They have not got vast amounts of money, they would have been able to invest in the squad, maybe two defenders. Put two defenders of quality in there and you are talking about a title-winning team.
‘They are at the same level they were at two years ago, four years ago, and they can just not get over that point of challenging for the league.
‘Look at the players they have bought – Robertson, £8m. Klavan, £4m. Matip, free transfer. That’s almost Championship spending on an area of the field where Liverpool are very weak. You spend that amount of money, you get that level of performance.’
Neville feels a good performance from Romelu Lukaku is necessary to silence the doubters
A lot of the attention on Saturday meanwhile will be on Romelu Lukaku, who has begun his United career with seven goals in as many league games since joining from Everton for £75m.
The Belgian has been criticised for failing to score many against big teams however, and Neville feels a good performance is necessary against Liverpool to silence the doubters.
If he gets it right, thinks Neville, Lukaku can truly punish Jurgen Klopp’s attack minded and defensively flimsy Liverpool team.
Neville said: ‘United last season had Zlatan, who was always going to come for the ball. This season they have Lukaku. If Liverpool go for it and lose the ball, it is Klavan and Lovren versus Lukaku.
‘For Klopp to go full cut, he is leaving a massive risk at the back with Lukaku, who has a lot to prove in big games. This is where he becomes a real United player.
‘Scoring in big games, scoring at Anfield – this is where Andy Cole, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Dwight Yorke became legends, scoring in big games and winning titles.’