Gary Neville has heaped praise on Manchester United’s “game-changers”, believing seven stars have helped propel Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side into surprise Premier League title contenders.
United’s 2-1 win over Aston Villa on Friday has set the stage for a highly-anticipated clash with traditional rivals Liverpool at Anfield on January 17 with the title race looking set to be the closest in years.
Having suffered false dawns under three managers since they won their last league title in 2013 in Alex Ferguson’s final season, United now have an identity under Solskjaer.
They are unbeaten in 10 league matches and even if Solskjaer is doing his best to play down their title ambitions, he knows that in this most strange of seasons, United are in the mix.
And their recent form has impressed former Old Trafford hero Neville, who has singled out seven players as being influential in their title pursuit.
“Edinson Cavani, Anthony Martial, Daniel James, Mason Greenwood, Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford… Game-changers.
“They do it in moments, and they don’t always have to be playing well when you have those players on the pitch.
“The performances are getting better, it’s a work in progress, it’s not by any stretch the finished article. At times in games they mesmerise you for 10 minutes, and then can turn into a nightmare for 10 minutes.
“But there’s confidence building, something is growing, there’s a spirit at the end of the game with the players celebrating was nice to see.
“I think a couple of years ago I said quite publicly at times there was a team I didn’t like watching wearing those red shirts. I see them now, and I felt last season they looked a lot happier, and this season they seem happier again.
“Who knows? I don’t think they’ll win the league, I don’t think they’re quite there, but I didn’t think they’d be anywhere near at this stage, and they are.
“And for that, we’ll look forward to that trip to Anfield with great glee – and hope we can tweak the tail of the tiger a little bit more!”
Indeed, United moved level on points with Liverpool thanks to their hard-fought 2-1 win over in-form Villa.
And, reflecting on that win, Neville added: “It was a big, big win for United.
“I’m so looking forward to that [Liverpool game]. Not because I’m here thinking United can go to Anfield and win, but because United have become competitive out of nowhere.
“I remember sitting at Old Trafford after that Manchester derby [goalless draw], sat with Roy Keane and Micah Richards, saying that Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham were far ahead of the two Manchester clubs at this moment in time.
“If you’d have said at the start of the season, or even five weeks ago, that United would be level with Liverpool, I’d have said no chance, that can’t happen. That shows how unusual this season is.”