Gary Neville says the first half of Manchester United’s 0-0 draw against Manchester City was “probably the best 45 minutes” of the Premier League season so far.
The first shot on target of the Manchester derby at Old Trafford did not arrive until the 82nd minute, but Neville believes that was more down to two excellent defensive performances than it was any lack of offensive quality.
He wrote in his Daily Telegraph column: ‘Supporters from both sides of Manchester may have left Old Trafford at the end of a 0-0 draw between United and City shaking their heads at the lack of goalmouth action or excitement, but for me, it was 90 minutes which told me that Premier League clubs can look forward to challenging in the Champions League again.
‘The fan watching it probably thinks that it is boring, that the entertainment is poor, but I really enjoyed the game and the first-half was probably the best 45 minutes I have seen anywhere in the Premier League this season.
‘The Premier League is renowned for entertainment and madness, but this was a game for the professional and I genuinely believe there were a lot of very good things out on that pitch.
‘For every attacking player out on that pitch, it was a nightmare, but that was largely because the defensive units of both teams did exactly what is required in the Champions League.
‘If I was a coach of United or City, I would be proud of how the players conducted themselves and followed instructions.
‘At a time when the Premier League is teetering with its co-efficient and facing the prospect of losing a team in the Champions League, this game offered a level of comfort in that teams are starting to apply themselves to defeding, concentration and focus.
‘What is a quality football match?
‘If City or United had torn the other apart, with the other team defending as they did, then you would say it was a quality performance.
‘But when a team nullifies the other, pays attention to detail of every one of the others’ strengths, you also have to say that that is a quality football match.
‘Every time I watch a big game in the Premier League, there is no doubt there is a correlation between the madness and chaos in domestic games and then the lack of application, focus and concentration that we see in the Champions League, where we have looked like the most naïve players in the world.
‘Concentration is a word that was rammed down my throat, and all my United team-mates’ throats, for 20 years.
‘But it seems like a word that doesn’t exist in the game anymore. It’s all about expanse, risk, goals, excitement, drama, mistakes.
‘The drama and mistakes of the Premier League might give fans some momentary high, but in this game, I saw a quality football match.
‘There is a place in football for this type of game. I want to see goals and incident, but when I have seen how we have been in the Champions League over the past few years, I want to see more of what I saw between United and City because, in all honesty, I think we have looked like muppets in the Champions League for the last three years.’
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