Manchester United have proven Gary Neville’s prediction regarding their title chances without Paul Pogba right.
United were insipid in their attacking play against Crystal Palace on Wednesday, creating few chances and not imposing themselves.
The draw leaves them 14 points behind Manchester City ahead of the weekend’s Manchester derby, and United can no longer consider themselves to be in a title race, with securing a top-four finish now the focus.
Their recent struggles, which include four draws in their last five league games, have come without Pogba, who hobbled off in the 3-3 draw with Everton with a thigh injury in early February.
The towering French midfielder has not featured since, and his absence has been felt, with Neville vindicated after saying in January that United’s hopes of winning the league hinged on Pogba.
“I think Manchester United’s chances of winning this league are slim – Liverpool and Man City are still the best two teams in this league,” Neville said when United were top and three points clear of champions Liverpool.
“But the slim chance they have to win this league will depend on something like Paul Pogba delivering a cameo of two or three months of brilliance, which he is capable of. He’s got confidence, he’s got arrogance – good arrogance, in a sense that he believes in himself.
“He thinks he should be playing in the biggest games in the world, and winning titles, and thinking positive thoughts, thinking you’re the best is a big thing when you’re looking to win.
“Just in that last 20 minutes [of the 0-0 draw at Liverpool], I felt United just had that little bit of missing belief. It’s not a long way away, but that’s the bit that will stop them winning the title.”
Pogba has missed the last seven games in all competitions. United have won three of them, scoring more than once in just two of those games.
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Manchester United were held to a 0-0 draw by Crystal Palace on Wednesday night.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his players were frustrated for the third goalless game in succession, dropping more points to allow Man City to streak away at the Premier League’s summit, on a poor day for the forwards.
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Speaking after the draw with Palace, Neville highlighted how big a miss Pogba has been.
“I think he was playing well in that period before he got injured and like you say, he doesn’t just sit there in midfield if nothing’s happening and let the game play out,” Neville told Sky Sports.
“He will go to the left, he will go to the right, he’ll try something different, he’ll move forward and they needed someone to take the game off-line. It was almost like a classic, rigid 4-4-2 performance from Manchester United tonight, even though they weren’t playing that system.
“Whereby you just felt like they were easy to mark, not enough runs, not enough movement, the pace and the tempo of the passing was really poor. Really you need both, the movement to create the angles, then you need the passing – it all just fits together.
“There was no rhythm here tonight. If you’re Man City preparing for the game on Sunday, you just know this Man United isn’t going to turn up because they will be alert, they will be alive, they’ll recognise they’ll have to be at their best, but they had to do it tonight to give themselves a little bit of a cushion ahead of Sunday when they’re playing against a top side.”