Well, that wasn’t in the script for Manchester United, was it?
All the talk before Monday’s game at Everton was about Robin van Persie, the strikeforce of 1999 and United’s bid to wrest the Premier League back from their noisy neighbours, but by the time the Red Devils left Goodison Park having been defeated 1-0 and comprehensively outplayed, the only sound coming from the United camp was one of bleating from their manager.
Sir Alex Ferguson, master of the media agenda, was keen to deflect attention away from his side’s inept display by moaning that Everton did nothing but ‘just lump the ball forward’ to the outstanding Maroune Fellaini and that United were ’the better football team’, but the number of people he convinced is roughly the same as the number of games Dimitar Berbatov is getting this season.
Everton were the better side by anyone’s criteria and United’s first opening-day defeat since 2004 will give Ferguson food for thought.
There were mitigating circumstances, of course, with United’s defence so decimated by injuries that Michael Carrick and Antonio Valencia were used at the back alongside the rusty Nemanja Vidic and the past-his-best Patrice Evra, but if it wasn’t for David de Gea, the scoreline would have been more embarrassing for Ferguson.
The men in white coats can come after me if they want, but I think the 21/20 on both teams to score is a knocking bet here.
United’s midfield offered very little protection to the makeshift backline, which only goes to strengthen the opinion that signing a top-class central midfielder may have been a better use of £24 million than buying a 29-year-old striker with a questionable injury record, especially when Anderson seems intent on doing his best Jan Molby impression.
The loss at Goodison is hardly a mortal blow, more of an inconvenience, but Ferguson needs his team to get back on track at the weekend and if he was going to pick any team to come to Old Trafford the week after a defeat, Fulham would probably be his choice.
I say that because Fulham’s record in Manchester is woeful and that is reflected in their price of 9/1 to win the three points. The draw is 17/4 and United are 7/25 and if past history is anything to go by, then the Red Devils will win this one easily.
Fulham have lost ten of their 11 Premier League trips to Old Trafford, drawing a blank on seven occasions, including in each of the last five. With a record like that, you’d have to be mad to back them to score when they go there on Saturday, right?
Well, the men in white coats can come after me if they want, but I think the 21/20 on both teams to score is a knocking bet here. The Cottagers have been a tidy side for some time now, ever since Roy Hodgson saved them from relegation, and his successors Mark Hughes and now Martin Jol have got the west Londoners playing some great stuff.
This is not an overreaction to Fulham’s 5-0 thumping of Norwich last week (as impressive as that was) but looking at the team Jol has assembled, there is attacking flair in abundance and with Bryan Ruiz, Alexander Kacaniklic, Moussa Dembele and new striker Mladen Petric, who bagged two on his debut last week, Fulham can cause teams problems – and not just at home, where they do much of their good work.
Besides, United are too short to back at that price given their problems in defence and their lacklustre showing on Monday, so it may be worth siding with Fulham to make life more difficult for Ferguson’s men than the odds imply.
This is, of course, assuming that United score, which they always do at Old Trafford – you have to go back to December 2009 to find the last time they drew a blank at home, a staggering run of 49 matches – but with defensive concerns and a tidy Fulham side in opposition, they may not be the only team who hit the back of the net on Saturday.
New customers can register here to claim a free £20 bet or click here to see all our Premier League odds.
Follow us on Twitter @bwin