If Cathy Ferguson wants a relaxing Christmas dinner then she’d better hope that Manchester United pick up three points away to Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday.
With Manchester City given an early three-point shaped present in the form of Reading at home on Saturday, the Reds’ lead at the top of the Premier League has been halved ahead of the kick-off in south Wales.
In 2011 United cruised into Christmas on the back of five successive league wins and christened Santa’s arrival with a pair of 5-0 victories against Fulham and Wigan either side of the 25th.
This time around, United’s dancing, prancing stallions – guided by Fergie’s bright red nose – will sleigh into Swansea in blitzen-ing form after chalking up ten wins in their last eleven league fixtures and bwin’s 3Way football betting market has them 31/50 to collect another maximum.
Last week I was spot on in predicting a 2-1, 3-1 or 4-1 United multiple correct score at 3/1 against Sunderland, and being full of festive spirits, mulled wine, lager, eggnog and paint thinner, I’m in the mood to deliver some more good will to earn you a yuletide bonus which can be used to good effect to help while away the timeless hours of an in-law-filled Boxing Day.
Although Ferguson’s side are flying through the gears I’m reticent to fully dive in on them for the win with their hosts also on a decent trot.
Swansea were outplayed by Tottenham last weekend but aside from that they’ve lost just two of their last fourteen home league games and they also have a proclivity to make life extremely tough for the top sides.
United just about got away with a win at the Liberty last season but City succumbed there and Tottenham, Arsenal and Chelsea and Liverpool twice have all been and gone without leaving victorious.
Somehow United continue to contrive to score more than they let in which in both counts is plenty. Their last five aways have seen the Reds ship in ten goals but they’ve countered that by scoring thirteen and picking up twelve points from a possible fifteen.
The Swans have also scored in ten of their last twelve homes so it’s no surprise both teams to score is only 57/100.
In-form Norwich plundered four here last time out and given the likelihood of goals at both ends, it’s worth exploring the goals market before we delve into a result.
Over 2.5 goals is 11/20 and if you fancy more than that then over 3.5 is 13/10. United themselves have only scored less than twice in two out of their last sixteen league fixtures and for them to score two or more is 53/100 and to score in both halves is definately worth a dabble at 6/5.
However, none of those punts will make you a millionaire so it’s time to stick my neck on the line and give you the gift I promised earlier.
Although the Swans are in decent form I fear they’ll miss the injured Pablo Hernandez and United are in that ominous mood where goals and games are flowing.
For the record it’s 4/1 for the Swansea win, 3/1 for the draw and 5/4 for the Swans to avoid defeat but I just feel that knowing they need a win to preserve their six point advantage over City, Ferguson (Cathy and Alex) will issue the three line whip and United will respond.
As I say, there’s more chance of me getting the missus to do ‘that’ for Christmas than there is the visitors keeping a clean sheet, but I think they’ll win regardless, which opens up a dearth of profitable prospects.
For a start, I can go over old ground and go for the United 2-1, 3-1 or 4-1 multiple at 31/10 and tripling your money and that will be hard to ignore.
The other thing to factor in is United’s insistence on going behind and Swansea’s reluctance to score in the first half.
Michael Laudrup’s team seem to treat the opening 45 minutes as some sort of elongated passing warm-up drill and as a result, many Swansea fans have chosen to only turn up for the second half of their games.
The Swans have scored just seven goals in the opening half all season and therefore I reckon the half-time draw isn’t a bad shout at 29/20 and my tip to you is to follow that up with the half-time draw-United win at 4/1.
An intriguing subplot to the game will of course be the presence of the league’s joint-top scorers. Michu and Robin Van Persie have both bagged a dozen so far this term and the Spaniard is 2/1 to add to that total with RVP 4/5.
Those two have also broken the deadlock for their side six times apiece so Van Persie is 7/2 and Michu 15/2 to get us going again, although I quite like the look (not literally) of Wayne Rooney to start things off at 4/1.