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Neville makes top four prediction and ‘critical’ Man United claim

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Gary Neville has told Ole Gunnar Solskjaer that the FA Cup is “critical” to Manchester United’s season after making his latest Premier League top-four prediction.

United are second in the table following Sunday evening’s 1-0 victory over West Ham at Old Trafford.

They trail leaders Manchester City by 14 points, with a game in hand, and are one ahead of third-placed Leicester City.

Chelsea are fourth, six points behind United, with West Ham fifth, Everton sixth, Tottenham seventh and defending champions Liverpool eighth.

Neville believes United will finish second behind City, with Chelsea and Leicester third and fourth respectively to round off the Champions League qualification spots.

It is another big week for United. They face AC Milan in the second leg of their Europa League last 16 tie at the San Siro in Italy on Thursday, before taking on Leicester City in the quarter-final of the FA Cup on Sunday.

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Neville believes that even if his former team claim the runners-up spot in the league, they also need to win a trophy for the season to be considered a success.

“I think it’s been a brilliant week,” he said on the latest Gary Neville Podcast. “Beating Manchester City they way in which they did and winning (against West Ham). AC Milan, I don’t quite see as a disappointment, because I think Manchester United away from home are a real threat, and I think they could easily go to Milan and win.

“So I don’t see that as anything other than a 50/50 game. I think, to be fair, Milan played really well and it could have been a lot, lot worse than 1-1.

“I know the disappointment comes because of the last-minute goal and it could have been better but it could also have been a lot worse.

“So I think it has been a fantastic week for Manchester United. If you’d said at the start of the week to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: ‘You’ll beat Manchester City, you’ll beat West Ham, and you’ll get a 1-1 draw against Milan’, he’d have snapped your hand off.

“Going into that Manchester City game, they were under real pressure. If City win, Milan all of a sudden you don’t know what’s going to happen in that game, and then this (West Ham) – if it doesn’t go well, there’s a real pressure building.

“I think now they’re a little bit more comfortable going into the rest of the week.

“It’s a big, big week this. (West Ham) was a good start, they’ve got the European game in midweek and then the FA Cup next weekend.

“And the FA Cup has become critical to this football club this season.

“The FA Cup or the League Cup has been the starting point for many Manchester United teams over the last 10, 15, 20 years.

“And if Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is going to be successful at this club, he has to not only finish second this season and finish second well, he has to win a trophy.

“That would be seen as real progress and then you’re attracting players for next season to try to catch Manchester City.”

As for the Premier League top-four chase, Neville added: “Leicester are the ones you’d be most nervous about because they did blow up last season and they had a really difficult run-in.

“But I just think there’s enough this year. I don’t see any team beneath West Ham… I don’t see West Ham catching Leicester and the team below that are so inconsistent and seem to be all over the place, that I’m not sure which one of them is going to put a run together.

“They’re capable of it, some of them, but I would think Leicester this year will hang on and it would cement the fact that Brendan Rodgers has done a brilliant job two years on the bounce.

“Last season, they were so unlucky to miss out on the last day against Manchester United. This year, I think he’ll get in the top four.

“And I think it will be Chelsea third and I think Leicester will be fourth.”

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