Gary Neville says he enjoyed Manchester United’s brief party at the top of the Premier League, but the Sky Sports pundit always expected Liverpool to fight back.
Jurgen Klopp’s side have struggled for form in recent weeks, going five games without a win the Premier League.
It saw the champions drop down the league and allowed Manchester United a brief spell at the top of the table, but back-to-back wins at Tottenham and West Ham have propelled Liverpool right back into the mix ahead of a home game against Brighton and crunch showdown with current league leaders Manchester City, live on Sky Sports, at Anfield on Sunday.
Neville, speaking on The Gary Neville Podcast, was full of praise for Liverpool and their ability to overcome some huge injury problems, especially in defence, to regain their form.
“The victory at Spurs on Thursday was a big one,” the former Manchester United defender said.
“Going there with a makeshift defence and also going to West Ham with it and performing so well. They were controlled against West Ham.
“You might have been a bit worried if you were a Liverpool fan, probably 50 or 60 minutes in when they were just passing a little bit too much and with no Sadio Mane and no Roberto Firmino, you were wondering where the goal might come from.
“But Mo Salah completely changed the direction of this game after it drifted for a little bit. He was absolutely brilliant in that 15-minute period where he got the two goals.”
Neville on Salah’s second: ‘It’s exceptional, it’s breath-taking’
“It was so special [ the second goal].
“I have to say, you see the first goal, which is a really good goal, but it is one of those that you see quite often from Salah so you are not out of your chair thinking it is anything different.
“In fact, I’m more thinking don’t let him back on his left foot. How many times have I seen that as a full-back with these players that cut in from the opposite side?
“But the second goal is so, so good. It’s exceptional, it’s breath-taking. The best goals I ever think of, while I was at Man Utd, are the counter-attack goals where they are just devastating. The best teams really do have it, that precision.
“And to attack at pace with precision is the most difficult thing. The pass, first time, from Xherdan Shaqiri is exceptional. And then the touch, the first touch, is out of this world.”
‘Salah is world class’
“We very rarely give the tag of world class, and we do have some world-class performers in the Premier League.
“There’s Kevin De Bruyne and I think Alisson is a world-class goalkeeper, but Salah is a world-class forward and striker.
“That first touch and second touch was something different. It was an unbelievable goal. One of the best goals I have seen, certainly this season. I’m not going to say any season because we have seen some great goals, but it really did catch our eye. Everybody at home will just think wow, what a goal!”
West Ham did not disrupt Liverpool; Reds were comfortable
“We had a chat before the game about whether West Ham would have the belief. We actually mentioned the word belief about Manchester United on Saturday night and whether they would think they should be where they are.
“And again, with West Ham today, did they really think before the game they could beat Liverpool? For the first half, it was almost like they felt okay, they felt in the game, Liverpool were not hurting them and that was enough.
“It’s not enough. They had to go and disrupt those centre-backs and cause them problems. I though Michail Antonio, with the right service, could have caused real problems with Said Benrahma, Pablo Fornals and Jarrod Bowen.
“I thought they must have some joy against those Liverpool centre-backs, but they didn’t. Nat Phillips did really well, and Jordan Henderson was so steady, so solid and read the game brilliantly. He looked like a seasoned centre-back.
“I know they conceded a goal late, but it was just a consolation. it was a comfortable game for Liverpool.”
‘Liverpool will be up for City clash’
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“Well done to Liverpool because whereby they have got different personnel in those positions, their structure is still the same. They are still pushing up the pitch, they are still playing that high line, pressing the game, they are still compact from back to front and they are still sustaining attacks.
“They are doing the same things even though they have different personnel, and that’s credit to the players, credit to the coach and I have to say, they have been decimated with injuries to some of their best players.
“Diogo Jota, Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Joel Matip and Mane, who didn’t play today. They have had big problems and yet they are overcoming it. If they can beat Brighton in midweek, which, no disrespect to Brighton, they should do at home, then we have got a real cracker next Sunday against Manchester City.
“This Liverpool team will be right up for it now.”
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‘I enjoyed the party, but Liverpool too good to not overcome blip’
“Two or three months ago and pre-Van Dijk’s injury, I was saying this is Liverpool’s league and it will be, no doubt. All of a sudden, they had Van Dijk’s injury and other things happening like Jota getting injured and the front three not quite being where they should be.
“It meant it all changed and Man City have now come to the fore. But it is swinging back and forward.
“It’s a season which can make you look a fool if you make a prediction in one month and a month after a manager has lost his job or a team has gone from second down to sixth or sixth up to second. It’s just that kind of league at the moment.
I don’t think any of us ever thought Liverpool were out of the title race in the last few weeks.
“I don’t think any of us ever thought Liverpool were out of the title race in the last few weeks. I may have had a bit of fun, let’s be clear, watching them drop points in those midweek games and seeing United go top of the league. It’s been a two or three-week party but that’s what I felt it was.
“I felt it was just a two or three-week party. I thought it would come to an end at some point and that Liverpool would resume their form.
“I don’t think United necessarily had to fall away but I thought Liverpool would come back and that they would get over this blip. They have got too good a coach and they have got too good a squad.”
In the latest edition of the podcast, Gary Neville hails Mohamed Salah’s two moments of magic as Liverpool’s recovery continued with a 3-1 win at West Ham.
Neville also gives his thoughts on Man City’s resurgence, Manchester United’s “odd bunch”, Frank Lampard’s sacking and Thomas Tuchel’s start at Chelsea and Newcastle’s win at Everton.