Gary Neville has insisted that Manchester United can no longer afford to drop points in the Premier League in the lead-up to their clash with leaders Manchester City on December 10.
Defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday leaves Man United eight points behind Pep Guardiola’s men, who claimed a 3-1 win over Arsenal, after 11 games.
United take on Newcastle, Brighton and Hove Albion and Watford following the international break before a trip to the Emirates that precedes the mammoth clash with Man City at Old Trafford.
And Neville, in a column for Sky Sports, has made it clear that United simply cannot afford to lose any further ground on their neighbours.
“If you’re Manchester United, or Tottenham, I’d be looking towards that game in December thinking they can be no worse off going into that game than they are now,” he said. “They’ll be thinking they have to damage them that day.
“Those games, on December 10 and December 16, against the two teams closest to them, they have to be thinking they need to be six to eight points behind them and no more. But they could be 12 points by then.”
Both United and Spurs have a chance to leave a mark on Arsenal and City following the November international break.
The chasm of eight points – a record lead at this stage of the season – may feel insurmountable at the moment, but Mourinho and Maurcio Pochettino have the chance to reduce that gap to just two points.
In United’s case, they will have to rediscover the pomp against lesser sides that hallmarked the early stages of their season ahead of what could be a defining trip to the Emirates in early December.