If I’d have been writing these online betting previews for the past 20 years, I could guarantee that features done on Manchester United around this time of year would have followed a familiar theme.
I’d begin by outlining a fairly healthy league position somewhere around the top, but undoubtedly caveat that by saying they’ve done it by only playing well enough in bits and pieces.
To illustrate my views, I’d have to reference some dropped points, late goals, a sprinkling of good luck, iffy penalties and plenty of patchy performances with decent yields and summarise it all by saying that Sir Alex Ferguson will be quietly content with things at this juncture.
For years now people have said this isn’t a ‘vintage’ Manchester United side but quite to the contrary, it is indeed a vintage United side for the reasons outlined above.
Perhaps only they could make such heavy weather of the mundane yet go away to Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City and win, and you could probably count on the fingers of one hand the amount of times they’ve been fully compos mentis throughout a whole 90 minutes of football all season.
The records show that the Reds have accumulated the same amount of points after 16 games this season as they did last term, with the main difference being that City are eight down on their total from 12 months ago.
With City facing a tricky lunchtime trip to Newcastle, Ferguson will know that Sunderland’s visit to Old Trafford is a very presentable opportunity to at the very least maintain that six-point margin at the top.
I watched the Black Cats get well beaten by Chelsea last weekend and the whole aura around the place was very downbeat.
The ‘Roker Roar’ has subsided to more of a ‘Wearside Whinge’ as the locals opted to constantly harangue the officials and groan at any number of misplaced passes.
By all accounts they were much improved against Reading on Tuesday, but that was only their third win in 24 league games and I can’t see them adding to that tally and neither can the bwin bookies, who price them at 25/2 for what would be a major upset.
One way or another, I reckon United are good for the 9/50 win but quite how that comes about is another matter.
Their better performances have been saved for the bigger matches and in keeping with the Jekyll and Hyde nature of things against the mid-table plodders, United have themselves played like mid-table plodders.
They were ordinary against West Ham in their previous home match and prior to that were awful for an hour against QPR.
United also fell behind to Fulham, Tottenham and Stoke and although I do eventually think they’ll get the job done, I can see this being another stuttering showing overall.
Ferguson’s men have conceded in all bar three of their league games this campaign and have managed to go behind in ten of those matches.
Fortunately for them, shot-shy Sunderland are averse to scoring against United having failed to find the net in the last five meetings and if you see that run being extended to six, then get on the United win to nil at 17/20 or the the multiple correct score of 1-0, 2-0 or 3-0 United at 33/20.
The Reds’ 40 league goals have been evenly divided across both halves, so United to score either side of half-time is good value for your accumulator at 31/50 and so too is United to win both halves at 11/10.
A few weeks ago, there was a statistic coughed up that Sunderland have had about three shots on target all year and while they’re not the purist’s dream of an idyllic, attacking side, they do generally find a route to goal.
Martin O’Neill’s men have scored in over two-thirds of their games this season and against United’s dozy defence, I can see them notching, so double your money on both teams to score at 21/20 and if that’s the case, then Sunderland die-hards can also make money on them to win with a 2-0 handicap at 7/5.
So, going with a Sunderland goal and a United win, the 2-1, 3-1 or 4-1 home win appears to offer superb value at 3/1.
Punters registering with bwin today can claim a free £20 bet and placing this on the Reds to win by one of these three scorelines would return £80 if successful – and that’s where my money will be going.