Soccer

Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher debate United and Liverpool rivalry

It’s a ball for United fans… we’ve got them biting! Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher debate Solskjaer’s title hopes, Klopp’s Liverpool rebuild and where the two teams will finish this season ahead of Sunday’s blockbuster title showdown

  • Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher didn’t see eye to eye in their playing days
  • They still go back and forth over the Manchester United and Liverpool rivalry
  • Man United are having a good spell after a period of Liverpool dominance 

Jamie Carragher woke up on Wednesday morning to a special personal video message.

‘Three points clear…’ cackled a wide-eyed Gary Neville on his screen, ‘of the greatest Liverpool team OF ALL TIME!’

So when the pair reconvened on a video call on Thursday there was still some mileage left in this dispute. They were enemies in their playing days, on either side of the biggest rivalry in English football, and probably the players who personified the fan on the pitch for their respective club’s supporters. 

Gary Neville didn’t see eye to eye in their playing days, and they still have friendly banter

They are now colleagues and (seemingly, though it’s not always clear) friends working for Sky Sports. Liverpool host Manchester United on Sunday in what is undoubtedly the most mouthwatering clash in years, simply because no meeting has had such huge significance since Sir Alex Ferguson departed in 2013. 

Of course, they always mattered to the supporters and, naturally, the time when United knocked the Reds out of the Europa League in 2016 was enticing. But imagine Barcelona and Real Madrid stooping to that level to get a rise out of their fans?

United haven’t been good enough to merit much notice until now. Liverpool weren’t a realistic threat to Ferguson’s dominance after a close title race in 2009 until he stepped down in 2013. It threatened to become a fixture defined by the past rather than the present.

Now, with only three points separating them in the title race, there is the enticing prospect of United going clear if they win at Anfield for the first time since 2016, especially as Liverpool haven’t lost at home since April 2017. 

Gary Neville believes Manchester United have the edge in the mental game over Liverpool

‘Obviously, Liverpool fans are portraying United fans as getting carried away,’ says Neville. ‘I genuinely do not know any United fan who’s getting carried away. We are just having a four-day ball, an unexpected party.’

Carragher interrupts (a theme of the afternoon’s proceedings): ‘What a headline! One of the biggest clubs in the world having a party because they are top of the League after 17 games! Do we need to carry on?’

Neville ignores him (also becoming a theme). ‘We’re just having a four-day lockdown party at Liverpool’s expense and it is fantastic. There is no expectation that United will win the League yet. I don’t think anyone is thinking that.

‘There is no doubt if United go to Anfield, where they have not been beaten for an unbelievable amount of time, then go to Arsenal in a couple of weeks and win, then Fulham …. win those three games and then it would get exciting.

‘But, when I look at Manchester City and Liverpool, I still don’t think United are going to win the League. The fact we are thinking about it and looking at a table where they are top is a big leap forward. We have not been talking about United winning the League for years.

‘United have been miles away from City and Liverpool for two years, so I think if they are within two or three games of them at the end of the season, I would say that’s probably where Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs to be. That would be progression this season.

‘That feels really defeatist when United are top. But we know this season has been awkward and inconsistent and that would represent massive progression from where they were.’ 

Jamie Carragher thinks that Manchester United are getting ahead of themselves too early

That said, progression alone will not be enough for Neville’s former team-mate Solskjaer, whose contract runs out in 2022.

‘He has to win the Premier League title or he won’t live as Manchester United’s manager for a long time,’ says Neville. ‘We know that. Ole knows that.

‘At the end of next season, he will have had three-and-a-half years at the club.

‘That’s enough time. Jurgen Klopp had four years to win it, but he also got to a Champions League final so you could see there was real progress. Ole has to get a lot closer this season, then next season he really has to challenge. That will be the plan.

‘Even now, I think to myself that if they had just got a top centre-back and a top right winger then it would be even better.’

At this point there is audible chortling from the Carragher household.

‘What you laughing at?’ demands Neville.

‘You say this every year,’ responds Carragher. ‘Same as Salford [The League Two club Neville co-owns]. You just want to buy players and spend money…’

Neville ignores this. ‘Ole didn’t get the centre-back he wanted, so he’s having to change his centre-back partnership, which isn’t ideal. He didn’t get a right winger, he’s still got those issues. And I do also think centre-forward is an issue if Edinson Cavani were to leave…’

The laughter from Carragher is now so loud that Neville has to stop. 

Man United are enjoying being at the top of the league, especially at the expense of Liverpool

That said, progression alone will not be enough for Neville’s former team-mate Solskjaer, whose contract runs out in 2022.

‘He has to win the Premier League title or he won’t live as Manchester United’s manager for a long time,’ says Neville. ‘We know that. Ole knows that.

‘At the end of next season, he will have had three-and-a-half years at the club.

‘That’s enough time. Jurgen Klopp had four years to win it, but he also got to a Champions League final so you could see there was real progress. Ole has to get a lot closer this season, then next season he really has to challenge. That will be the plan.

‘Even now, I think to myself that if they had just got a top centre-back and a top right winger then it would be even better.’

At this point there is audible chortling from the Carragher household.

‘What you laughing at?’ demands Neville.

‘You say this every year,’ responds Carragher. ‘Same as Salford [The League Two club Neville co-owns]. You just want to buy players and spend money…’

Neville ignores this. ‘Ole didn’t get the centre-back he wanted, so he’s having to change his centre-back partnership, which isn’t ideal. He didn’t get a right winger, he’s still got those issues. And I do also think centre-forward is an issue if Edinson Cavani were to leave…’

The laughter from Carragher is now so loud that Neville has to stop. 

Liverpool have enjoyed a few years of success, and finally Man United are challenging again

He means Ed Woodward, executive chairman of United, of whom Neville has been critical.

‘I said they needed to bring in a football operator to run the football side of the club and the people who run the business side of the club should concentrate on the business side of the club, it’s really clear what I said,’ Neville insists.

‘Have we given Ole a hard time? No. I think we’ve been heavily critical of the team — and that ultimately is Ole’s team. I mean you can’t say now, two years into the job, that it’s not Ole’s team. You can’t say he is managing someone else’s players. He’s had three or four transfer windows. Patience was always going to be needed.’

Carragher is asked if he is secretly pleased United are back as a force in the title race, so that the fixture has real bite again. 

It’s the first time in years that the historic rivalry has created a real top of the table clash

‘No, not really! Listen, that’s me with my Liverpool hat on. If you’re thinking of me with my Sky Sports hat on and what it is for the season — not just Liverpool-United — I think we always start the season hoping there will be three or four teams challenging for the title and it never seems to happen.

‘Someone runs away with it or there are two teams competing. This season is unbelievable, in a good way.

‘City are looking pretty decent. City, Liverpool, I think United will be in the top three.’

As for Neville?

‘I’m going to go City. I think I will then go United. I’ll go Liverpool third.’

Cue his mischievous laugh.

‘It seems as though the Liverpool fans are just biting a little bit!’

Watch Liverpool v Manchester United exclusively live on Sky Sports and NOW TV at 4.30pm. 




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