PHIL Neville hopes Everton’s attacking prowess is sharper than ever in time for their challenging start to the new season against Manchester United.
The Blues skipper was upbeat after David Moyes’men recorded their second pre-season win on Thursday with a 1-0 victory over Dundee United at Tannadice Park.
Everton crafted a few chances during an otherwise dour encounter, which didn’t feature Nikica Jelavic, Tim Cahill or new signing Steven Naismith, and Neville knows they need a sharper cutting edge when they face Alex Ferguson’s men next month.
He said: “The squad looks strong, confident and fit. The most important thing now is that we work on our sharpness, speed and attacking play.
“You’re not going to come out in the first game and be unbelievably sharp and back where we were at the end of last season, but that’s the aim. We want to get back to that kind of level.
He added: “We’ve done our base work – 10 days tough training in Austria and back at Finch Farm. We’ve got some games coming up and you can only get that sharpness through playing in games.
“It’s about getting the right amount of football from now until the start of the season. This is where it begins.”
Neville completed his first full run-out of the Blues’ warm-up programme against the Scottish Premier League side, and was joined in part by fellow senior players like Marouane Fellaini and Tim Howard.
But the skipper was buoyed by the impact of the club’s younger players, as Ross Barkley impressed with a classy half-hour exhibition of his talents and a late winner.
Neville added: “We’ve played some young players again. Ross Barkley played well when he came on and Luke Garbutt did okay. Shane Duffy is proving that he can handle playing in the first team.
“Another positive is that some of the senior players got games – myself, Ossie, Seamus, Sylvain and Tim Howard. That’s like money in the bank really.”
Everton fly to Indonesia for participation in the Java Cup next week, with Leighton Baines part of the travelling squad – although speculation linking the England defender with Manchester United refuses to go away.
And United boss Ferguson has spoken for the first time of his desire to sign a new left-back to challenge for a starting spot with captain Patrice Evra.
“Left-back is an area which we’re paying attention to in that sense that Patrice, in the last five years, has played an average of 45 to 50 games,” said Ferguson
“Patrice will be all right.
“He’s shown he has a resilience about him and has a great attitude to playing, but he is 31 next month.”
United are still looking at their possible options as regards a move for Baines, but Ferguson is a long-term admirer of the player.