Manchester United’s faint hopes of challenging for the Premier League title now hang in the balance following recent results.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, who briefly occupied top spot in the Premier League table, have picked up just one victory from their previous five league games.
Second-placed United currently find themselves seven points behind rivals Manchester City following last weekend’s disappointing 1-1 draw away at relegation-threatened West Brom.
City, on the other hand, have now won a remarkable 11 league fixtures on the bounce.
It would be a big surprise, at this point, if the Premier League trophy didn’t end up at the Etihad Stadium come the end of the season.
Former Man Utd captain-turned-pundit Gary Neville said on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football that he can’t see United winning a Premier League title with their current defensive trio.
Neville looked at the data and highlighted how David de Gea, Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof are currently conceding more goals per game (one) compared to the club’s former defensive trios: Peter Schmeichel, Steve Bruce, Gary Pallister, and Edwin van der Sar, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic.
United are also picking up fewer points per game.
"If you look back at the best centre-back pairings in the Premier League Manchester United have had - the relationship between them and the goalkeeper is critical if you are to win the Premier League,” Neville said.
"If you look at Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, they had a midfield in front of them of Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick, Ryan Giggs and Cristiano Ronaldo. There's not really a defender amongst them.
"When you look at this pair now of Lindelof and Maguire, you could put the 1.8 points per game down to the fact they're playing in a weaker team, but they concede a goal a game. Even with Fred and Scott McTominay in front of them. They've got two defensive midfielders sat right in front of them and they don't move.
"The key thing is that only one of the last 20 Premier League champions have conceded at least one goal per game. That tells you about these three of De Gea, Lindelof and Maguire. To win titles, that triangle of goalkeeper and two centre-backs need to be as solid as a rock.
"They need to be dominant and these three aren't dominant. The goalkeeper's not dominant at the moment, even though I thought he did OK on Sunday, and the two centre-backs are not dominant. They concede too many goals and if you concede one or more goals per game, you're not going to win a Premier League. Manchester United have to look at that.”
Neville went on to claim that Maguire and Lindelof do not complement each other in the same way Bruce and Pallister did, or Ferdinand and Vidic.
He makes the point that United aren’t going to get rid of Maguire after spending £80 million on the England international and handing him the captain’s armband, which means Lindelof is the defender most in danger of being axed by Solskjaer.
De Gea, meanwhile, is currently fighting to retain his status as United’s No. 1 goalkeeper with Dean Henderson waiting for his opportunity to take over.