Roy Keane said Manchester United had showed "real progress" to top the Premier League – but said the hard work is still to come after Sunday's draw with Liverpool.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side stayed at the summit after holding the reigning champions to a 0-0 draw at Anfield.
In a game which failed to live up to the pre-match hype, United had the better chances, with Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba both denied in the second half as they looked to open up a bigger gap over Jurgen Klopp's side.
As it was they remained three points ahead of Liverpool – who are now fourth after Manchester City and Leicester both won this weekend.
Afterwards, Solskjaer said his side had "missed an opportunity" to capitalise on the indifferent form of their rivals.
But Keane felt his former team-mate would be pleased with the performance and result in the long run.
Asked if taking a point from the home of the champions was a step in the right direction, Keane told Sky Sports : "Yeah I think so. It was a big test for them today.
"First 15-20 minutes, McTominay and Fred were loose with some of their pases. Pogba was, Fernandes was.
"But overall when he [Solskjaer] gets back on the bus and analyses it with his staff he'll go 'you know what, a draw, clean sheet, had the better chances, should have took them'.
"I think Ole will be okay with it, I have to say."
Keane hailed the resurgence of his former club, who extended their unbeaten top-flight run to 11 games, having won eight of those matches.
But he said after surging to the top of the table with last week's win over Burnley, the hardest part would now be winning the big games in order to stay at the summit.
"I think the progress they've made over the last six months, for us to be even discussing that Man United are top of the table, they've come away from Liverpool with a draw, it's been real progress," he said.
"The next part is the hardest part – in terms of staying up there. Winning these tight games, if you want to win the league you need to win these tight games, now they've not quite shown that yet.
"But overall I'd be pleased with their performance. If you want to win trophies and prizes you're not going to play every game well."
Keane was then asked if he felt United had enough to win a 21st top-flight crown – and admitted he was still not fully convinced.
"I don't know," he said. "I change my mind every few weeks. These type of performances, certainly, I think United should go back tonight and be encouraged."
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