LONDON - After an indifferent Premier League start and without an away win this season, Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal's belief that his side can still win the Premier League is misplaced, says former club captain Gary Neville.
A late Daley Blind equaliser secured a point for United as they twice came from behind to draw 2-2 at West Bromwich Albion on Monday night, extending their run without an away win in the league to six games, their worst for 18 years.
Dutchman van Gaal however hailed the disjointed performance as their best of the season and insisted his team can still win the league despite being 10 points adrift of leaders Chelsea after only eight games.
Neville said the team's failure to win away at newly-promoted sides Leicester City and Burnley, and relegation candidates Sunderland and West Brom, proves the team aren't at the required level to challenge Jose Mourinho's men.
"At this moment in time this Man United team isn't good enough to win the league," Neville said on Sky Sports on Monday. "Louis van Gaal asked for three months when he came in and he's reassessed that. It's a tougher job than he imagined and in the next eight games they've got tough opponents.
"At the start of the season after eight games you would have said they would have been on 16 or 17 points. There's been a lot of upheaval. It's been tough for him. "Coming out of the World Cup he was drunk with praise, but I think it's sobered him up slightly."
After leading the Netherlands to third place in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, van Gaal has won three competitive games since taking over at Old Trafford.
His expensively assembled new-look squad, including British transfer record signing Angel Di Maria from Real Madrid, have taken 12 points from eight games, one more than his predecessor David Moyes took at the same point last season.
Moyes endured an ignominious exit before United finished in seventh, their worst in the Premier League, but van Gaal is confident that his side can reach new levels when they host Chelsea on Sunday before visiting champions and bitter local rivals Manchester City a week later.
"That is possible (to catch Chelsea)," former Barcelona manager van Gaal said. "It is difficult to say, because I am then arrogant, but I have done it a lot of times, like at Barcelona. "Chelsea is another level and then Manchester City also. But we have to see if we can beat them."
Unlike Moyes, who was derided for introducing a dour style of football to Old Trafford, van Gaal has built a side full of attacking intent.
United's problem is plugging a defence that is prone to lapses of concentration, exposed when Stephane Sessegnon and Saido Berahino twice gave West Brom the lead at the Hawthorns.
The Dutch manager is unwilling to sacrifice the team's attacking flair ahead of the visit of Mourinho's free-flowing team. "I don't think that is the solution," van Gaal said. "Football is made to play attractively for the fans.
"I am happy about our playing style, but not happy about the result (against West Brom). Today again, two errors, and also in the past. "I think we could have eight points more. Then we are up there. But that is a matter of time and I believe in it - football is made to play attractive for the fans."