Gary Neville believes Manchester City have offered Manchester United “a little ray of hope” in the Premier League title race after the weekend’s action.
City maintained their eight-point gap over United after grabbing a nervy, late win over West Ham at The Etihad on Sunday, a day after United had dispatched Arsenal at The Emirates.
It was City’s third successive 2-1 win and although they have nine points to show from those three games, Neville believes there is a glimmer of hope for his former side heading into next weekend’s Manchester derby.
He told Sky Sports in his latest podcast: “It has been a tough week for Manchester City, but a good one, though it has also been a good week for Manchester United as well, in terms of competitors chasing City.
“They [United] might, for the first time this season, have just seen a little ray of hope, that there will be better teams than Huddersfield, Southampton and West Ham, yet all came close.
“All three played a certain way and got joy with certain things – counter-attack has been a problem for City this week, set-pieces and corners have been a problem this week, deep and compact defences have also been a problem this week in terms of breaking them down.
“You would argue, given what happened at Arsenal on Saturday, that United do have that counter-attack ability with Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Romelu Lukaku and Jesse Lingard, and that they do have the ability to score from set-pieces, and they are a better defensive unit than Southampton or West Ham.
“United will be confident going into the game because of what has happened this weekend for City, even though it has been a good week for City too, as they’ve scored three late winners and have taken maximum points.”
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Neville felt that Pep Guardiola’s side showed a complacency in the opening 45 minutes against the Hammers, which was partly down to resting Vincent Kompany and Fernandinho – who are both on four yellow cards – despite it being the right decision ahead of the derby.
“Everyone will have believed they should have won those matches, but they’ve made it difficult for themselves and haven’t been at their best,” Neville added.
“The first 45 minutes is the worst I’ve seen from them this season. It was absolute complacency. They came out and were nowhere near at it.
“Guardiola made the right decision [to rest Kompany and Fernandinho] – it’s something Sir Alex Ferguson would have done 10 or 15 years ago – he would have looked ahead.
“I don’t think anybody thought it was the wrong decision, but psychologically it sends a message to the fans, to us, and to the players that they’re already thinking about a bigger fish to fry next week.”