Michael Carrick’s return from injury in Manchester United’s 1-0 win over Newcastle has dealt the Red Devils’ top-four rivals an enormous blow.
Louis van Gaal’s decision to unfurl the Geordie pass master over Colombian marksman Radamel Falcao with the game goalless drew derision from Sky Sports’ pundit Dwight Yorke, but the grinning Trinidadian was forced to eat his words just moments later when the Reds struck the winner.
It’s an eventuality any avid Man Utd watcher would’ve anticipated as soon as they spotted Carrick begin to shed his tracksuit.
His first start of the campaign sparked the six-match winning run for the 13-time Premier League kings that propelled them into the position of prominence they now occupy.
Just once this season have they been beaten when Carrick has been included from the off and this seamless reversion into winning ways following his recovery from a muscle rupture suggests a similar run is about to be embarked upon.
This alone makes the 17/20 about Man Utd landing a top-four finish this season easy money.
But when you consider the former Tottenham star’s re-emergence means Van Gaal can include his rabbit’s foot and four-leaf clover in the same side again it becomes a bet you simply can’t afford to back.
Clearly, Carrick is a formidable force by himself, but when his powers are fused with those of big-haired Belgian Marouane Fellaini the by-product is wins, wins, wins.
Each of the six top-tier matches they both began ended in Man Utd victory, with foes of varying strengths surpassed.
The pair’s combined prowess saw the laurels lassoed against Arsenal at the Emirates, while it was also too much for Liverpool to withstand.
Brendan Rodgers’ men succumbed to a 3-0 reverse at Old Trafford and have not lost a league match since this December defeat, underlining how powerful this pair is.
It was also the last time both Carrick and Fellaini started a Premier League match.
Across all competitions, when the duo make the XI Man Utd’s win percentage stands at 86%, dropping down to 46% when the double act has been broken up.
With one or both absent from the teamsheet, the club have failed to prevail more frequently than they’ve speared the spoils this term, triumphing 12 times as opposed to 14 draws or defeats.
For Van Gaal, incorporating the twosome into the line up is integral for short-term success so expect to see both muddying their kits when Tottenham visit the Theatre of Dreams as the Reds’ next Premier League opponents.
They’re 3/4 to best the Lilywhites, a price that translates into £22.50 if punters stake their £30 free bet for opening an account at bwin.com on it.