Sky Sports pundits Jamie Redknapp and Gary Neville believe Manchester United and Liverpool must challenge Manchester City for the Premier League title next season, and praised Jurgen Klopp’s side for their third-place finish.
United were already assured of second place ahead of the final round of fixtures, but a 2-1 win for Liverpool against Crystal Palace – coupled with defeats for Chelsea and Leicester – saw them secure a Champions League place.
It was something that seemed out of Liverpool’s reach after a tumultuous title defence, but a 10-match unbeaten run – including eight wins – at the end of the season saw them secure European football for another year.
United’s season is not over either. They will now prepare to face Villarreal in the Europa League final on Wednesday, hoping to follow up a successful Premier League campaign.
After the final games of the season, Neville and Redknapp gave their thoughts on Liverpool and United, plus West Ham and Jesse Lingard’s future…
Neville: Credit to Liverpool | Man Utd have to challenge
“For Liverpool to come back from those six home defeats in a row – wow. Champions losing six on the bounce at home, to come back in the way they have, you need to give them real credit.
“Absolutely Liverpool will challenge [next season]. They would have challenged this season if Virgil van Dijk had stayed fit. A team should not fall apart to the extent that they did off the back of one player getting injured but he is such an important player.
“He’s a huge player for them. With him having the summer off – it’s been announced he’s not going to the Euros – he will come back next season.
“I’m not great believer in this [idea] that the front three are done. The performances are still really high level and they’ve performed at such a high level for three or four years, sprinting a million miles every season that team. They deserve a season where they dipped a little bit.
“I’ve got no problem with Liverpool dipping a bit this season. City did last season. Great teams do that every three or four years.
“I think they [Man Utd] have to [challenge next season]. Wednesday night is big for United. To finish second and win the Europa League would be seen as big progress, then recruit well in the summer and they have to get really close. Wednesday night is a huge game and it does concern me a little bit with (Harry) Maguire being injured.”
When they went 2-1 up you said, if they can just hold on here but Spurs came back again and they’ve not won. Maybe they just did a little bit too much. When you’ve gone to the highs of winning something, to win something and then go again, it’s difficult. That’s when you have to go into your squad but today, after they’ve scored the second, it’s just somehow confidence got knocked out of them. Liverpool did their job and Aston Villa did their job.
Redknapp: Liverpool will come back strong next year
“It’s a real achievement. You shouldn’t, after last year and winning the Premier League, say it’s an achievement to finish third but with everything that was against Liverpool this year… and having no crowd was hard for everyone.
“Van Dijk and (Joe) Gomez have been out, and having to play midfield players in defence, you see last year at City when they had to play Fernandinho and Rodri in defence, it just causes disarray. The harmony of the team, everything gets exposed, there are weaknesses there, teams believe they can get at you, and that’s what happened to Liverpool.
“They showed their fallibility, where as City have been so good because they have had recognised centre-backs playing week in week out
“I genuinely think they will challenge for the title next season. Absolutely. Because they have got the best centre-back in the Premier League coming back.
“Yes, Dias is exceptional but I still think Van Dijk, as long as he comes back and he’s fit and ready, there’s no reason why they can’t. They have got to recruit a couple of players and they lose (Georginio) Wijnaldum, but I think Liverpool are going to come back very strong next year.”
Neville: Outstanding from West Ham
“West Ham were consistent all season. An outstanding performance. They flirted with Champions League but you always felt they were just going to drop out at the last, but this is a really good season.
“It’s a pity West Ham fans have not been able to bond with David Moyes and watch the team this season. It has not been what you would typically think of as a David Moyes type season, there’s a lot of talent in that team, they have played good football, they have got a good spine.
“That club, to be fair, have been disconnected over the last three or four years with the stadium, the ownership. Actually it’s a real shame the fans have missed this season for them.”
Neville, Redknapp: Lingard has to play regular football
Neville: “I think if you are Man Utd now, you are looking at Dan James, Jesse Lingard, and Anthony Martial and you are recouping there maybe £50m, £60m, £70m depending on who comes in for them.
“Jesse now needs to play every week. He canot go back to Man Utd’s bench from experiencing this. He’s a star there so why not go there if you can. I am sure West Ham will buy him for good money.”
Redknapp: “It’s inspired from both points of view. If he goes back to Man Utd, he’s not going to play ahead of Bruno Fernandes. Go and play football. He’s realised what a good player he is.
“Everyone was talking about, ‘he’s not made an assist, he’s not scored a goal’, but he’s played at the top level, played in a World Cup semi-final. We know his talent, know his quality and sometimes you forget as a player. But now he knows he’s a valuable commodity.
“It’s important he makes the right move. West Ham feels like it would be a good fit for him. He seems really settled, the players seem to love having him there as well, I think it would be a great move and if they can afford him, I think he’d be a great buy for them.”