Gary Neville: Manchester United Need '4 or 5 Transfer Windows' to Compete at Top

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistAugust 27, 2019

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 24: Harry Maguire of Manchester United looks dejected with team mate Paul Pogba during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Crystal Palace at Old Trafford on August 24, 2019 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville has said his old club will need "four or five transfer windows" until they can contend for titles alongside the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool.

United suffered their first defeat of the season on Saturday when they lost 2-1 at home to Crystal Palace. Summer signing Daniel James scored United's only goal, while fellow newcomers Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka also played the entire 90 minutes.

Patrick van Aanholt netted in injury time to take the three points for Palace, and Neville said on his podcast (h/t Sky Sports) that former team-mate Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may need years to rebuild:

"The most important thing about the transfer window for United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is that they don't make mistakes, not that they do loads of business, but it's about making sure they have the right type of players.

"It may seem like too far into the distance but I would suggest four or five transfer windows to get things absolutely right and get back to the type of squad he would want to challenge these Liverpool and Man City teams.

"I've said before, he's got to be ready, not at the end of this season, not next season, but the one after, to challenge for the Premier League title. Potentially when Pep Guardiola has left Man City, or Liverpool have had another round of recruitment and another set of players in...Ole has got to be ready to pounce."

Few might have realistically expected the Red Devils to challenge for this season's Premier League title, though one of the biggest clubs in football will always wonder what could be possible in any given season.

Blogger Hesham Bilal-Hafiz bemoaned United's lack of depth after it was confirmed Luke Shaw and Anthony Martial suffered injuries during the defeat to Palace:

Hesham Bilal-Hafiz @hesham786

Embarassing state of affairs at United. Young back in after 3 games and doubts over Martial already with our wafer-thin squad. #mufc https://t.co/2vfNVsAbsK

Those tentative hopes for what might be were temporarily lifted after United annihilated Chelsea 4-0 in their Premier League opener. However, it must be noted the Blues are in their first season under manager Frank Lampard, not to mention the club was suspended from signing new players this past summer.

Sportswriter Samuel Luckhurst said United's bright start to the season deceived, arguing the signs of their lack of squad depth have been evident all along:

Samuel Luckhurst @samuelluckhurst

Chelsea result was clearly misleading at the time. Wolves gave a fair glimpse of the immaturity of this #mufc side and it came to the fore today. Players who are first-teamers are squad players at best. United ended the summer without two priority targets and it shows.

Neville added that Solskjaer is taking "the long road, not the quick path" at United, highlighting the previous failures of experienced managers like Jose Mourinho, Louis van Gaal and David Moyes at United. He continued:

"There's no shortcut, there never is, and for me, it's now about making it through these difficult moments, like losing to Crystal Palace and you feel like the world is going to fall in but people must remain patient.

"I want to see the nonsense go, the speculation that players want to go, I want to see the disciplinary issues or the little tit-for-tat stuff over the last two or three years where there have been fall-outs, I want to see that go and the leaks. I want to see a team building slowly."

Solskjaer has also attracted criticism for opting against a designated penalty-taker, allowing Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford the freedom to decide between them during games.

Pogba missed a spot-kick in the recent 1-1 draw at Wolverhampton Wanderers, and the debate was revived on BT Sport following Rashford's missed attempt—the first of his senior career—against Palace:

Football on BT Sport @btsportfootball

"It's so vital, why would you allow them on the pitch to discuss it!" "He needs to be more authoritarian!" Does Solskjaer need to be a stronger leader when it comes to penalty takers? #EarlyKickOff https://t.co/6AxoMqP10J

The progress of former Swansea City star James has been one silver lining, with the 21-year-old netting twice in two home appearances.

United spent a combined £125 million or so to sign Maguire and Wan-Bissaka from Leicester City and Crystal Palace, respectively, addressing concerns in central defence and at right-back.

Early signs have been positive for the three new faces, but Neville evidently has to see more promising recruitment of that sort before he feels United will be title contenders again.