The moment Graeme Souness lost Manchester United argument with Gary Neville

Manchester Evening News Sports 3 weeks ago

Roy Keane's Harry Kane soundbite was the snippet that went viral after Manchester United's 1-1 draw with Liverpool on Sunday but the discussion it came off the back of was far more fascinating.

Gary Neville and Graeme Souness went back and forth for around 10 minutes post-match as they discussed United's needs at centre-forward. The debate started with Neville praising Rashford's display against the Scousers. 

"People were starting to question him in a big way," Neville said on Sky Sports. "They were saying, 'this is not the answer to Man United and they need to go and sign another striker'. They might still need to. But at least he's showing what he is."

Souness' riposte?

"He's not the finished article right now."

That comment was correct, but if you walked around Old Trafford on a matchday, you wouldn't find too many supporters saying otherwise - and Neville certainly did not.

Neville's argument over the ensuing minutes was that persisting with Rashford would be the right road for United to go down in the long run, while also suggesting the addition of an extra striker would benefit the squad, so long as that striker fits the profile of player Ole Gunnar Solskjaer desires.

Souness appeared obsessed with the idea that United need a classic centre-forward, with goals his only remit, while Neville referenced Roberto Firmino as an example of a No.9 who is not prolific but more than makes up for that with other aspects of his game.

Jose Mourinho agreed. 

"Today there are strikers that, if they don't score goals, their contribution to the team is close to zero," United's former manager opined. "And there are strikers, when they don't score goals, their contribution to the team is huge! And Firmino is a good example of that."

"Your strikers are the ones who put the ball in the net," Souness would go on to say, ignoring reasoned points raised by both Neville and Mourinho.

The next chunk of the discussion centred around Neville's opinion that United's most successful spells under Sir Alex Ferguson came when the team had fluid forward players in it.

Ruud van Nistelrooy was the most prolific striker Ferguson ever had at his disposal but, with the Dutchman at the head of United's team, they won just one Premier League title in five years.

After Van Nistelrooy left, United won three on the trot with Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Louis Saha, Carlos Tevez and Dimitar Berbatov each playing a part in some or all of those title successes.

As Neville explained the shift in United's style post-Ruud, Souness' brow furrowed and he fidgeted before interjecting.

"Where Man United are now... Just take anything!" he erupted, disregarding Neville's well thought-out point. 

"Don't be putting any strikers into categories, If you can land somebody who can get you 25 or 35 goals a season, and he's not exactly what you want, you take him anyway, because that's where Man United are."

Neville rightly pointed out that United had Lukaku, a proven Premier League goalscorer, and shifted him in the summer because he did not figure in Solskjaer's long-term plans.

It would make little sense for Solskjaer to go back on that decision, just so the majority of United's goals could all come from the same player.

It is an outdated notion that a team's central striker must shoulder the goal-scoring burden for an entire team, as Liverpool's success with Firmino as a false nine has proved.

Souness blew up when confronted with a balanced argument while Neville kept his cool when he was faced with unreasoned waffle.


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