Michael Owen says Manchester United will ‘struggle’ to win the Premier League this season despite the Red Devils moving joint top with Liverpool after beating Aston Villa 2-1.
While Liverpool have stalled with 1-1 draws against both West Brom and Newcastle, United have picked up 10 points out of 12 over the Festive period.
And victory over Villa saw them join the Merseysiders on 33 points.
The top two are seven points clear of Manchester City. But Pep Guardiola’s men have two games in hand so the race looks a tight one.
However, Owen believes Liverpool and City remain the teams to beat.
United have actually accrued more Premier League points than Jurgen Klopp’s men since the arrival of Bruno Fernandes a year ago.
The former Anfield and Old Trafford star was asked if United could win the title without the Portuguese playmaker and his response was clear.
He told Premier League productions (via The Metro): “I’m not sure they can win the title with him to be honest.
“I still think they’re… I think they’re a brilliant counter-attacking team, against the bigger and better teams they are exceptional and can give anyone a problem.
“The question I have is when they’re in possession against teams like Wolves and trying to break them down.
“I watched them the other day and there were no chances. Listen, they’re right in the mix, no question about it.
“They’re second on goal difference, but are they as rounded a team as Liverpool or Man City?
“I still think they’re a step behind and I still think it will be a struggle for them to win the title. But the way they’re playing, anything is possible.”
The bookmakers would appear to agree with Owen’s assessment.
They make Liverpool 11/8, with Man City 13/8 and Man Utd 5/1.
Solskjaer plays down title talk
United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is not getting carried away.
He said after the Villa win: “We’ve improved. I think the league and the season is going to be so tight. We’ve just got to keep working and improving as a team.
“Every time you win a game you take one step further. You’ve just got to accumulate the points. They all count the same.”
As for the upcoming showdown with Liverpool at Anfield on January 17, Solskjaer is playing it down for now.
Before that, United play Manchester City in the EFL Cup, Watford in the FA Cup and Burnley in the Premier League.
Solskjaer said: “We’ve got a big game on Wednesday against [Manchester] City, I’m not even thinking [about playing Liverpool] yet.”