There’s something worryingly familiar about the way Manchester United move through the gears once the clocks go back. The art of winning with minimum fuss and maximum effect is one that has been cultivated, cliched and classified as the staple diet of wannabe champions and one gradually moulded into a status symbol for Sir Alex Ferguson’s teams for over a quarter of a century now.
United were at it again in midweek against Braga and indeed last week against an insipid Arsenal. In Portugal they needed a power cut to spark some life into them but despite an appalling first 80 minutes, they still managed to coast home with Javier Hernandez pratting about in the six-yard box to wrap things up.
The victory over the Portuguese club also contained other facets which the rest seek to emulate but struggle to regularly replicate. It was the third time in four of their Champions League group ties that United had to come from behind to win and once again their three main front men were on target in doing so.
As much as it pains me to do so, I’m going to have to carry on this United love-in by pointing out that Wednesday’s win was their seventh in eight games since being humbled at home to Tottenham, with the only anomaly being the scratch side Ferguson sent out at Chelsea in the Capital One Cup. This might be making uncomfortable reading for the ABUs (Anyone But United) but the harsh truth is that the mechanical red monolith is rumbling forward once again.
Ferguson will barely countenance the past few weeks as anything other than business as usual, especially considering his side can put daylight between themselves and the chasing pack – for 24 hours at least – with another three points at their Premier League home from home.
Since football was invented in 1992, United’s record against Aston Villa has been about as one-sided as any battle in the English top flight. In 43 matches, the Villans have won just three and since the infamous Alan ‘you’ll never win anything with kids’ Hansen match in August 1995, United have won 26 of the 36 clashes against their bunnies and have gone 19 unbeaten at Villa Park.
If you base your bets on statistics and history then this is another no-brainer and bwin’s 3Way football betting market shares that opinion, with the visitors 12/25 favourites for another win, Villa way out at 6/1 and the draw 3/1.
So having skimmed over the past and present it’s time to look into my admittedly murky-looking crystal ball to predict how things will pan out at Saturday tea-time and unfortunately this article isn’t going to get any less gloomy for the Villa faithful.
A 1-0 win at Sunderland last time out was only Villa’s second maximum haul in 20 league games and over that time, the red half of Manchester have churned out 46 points. The United trident of Wayne Rooney, Hernandez and Robin van Persie have struck 21 times between them so far this campaign, which is more than Paul Lambert’s men have managed in all competitions. So given the weight of the argument against them, I’ve got very little solace for Villa.
Thanks to the wonders of social media, I’ve managed to find out that Villa have mustered a pretty pathetic 33 shots on target over their ten league games so far this season – which is the second worst in the division – and they are also the joint-second lowest goalscorers with a measly eight.
United have conceded in all bar three of their 16 games this term but with Darren Bent out injured and Villa possessing all the threat of a drunk Emile Heskey, I reckon the visitors can claim another three points at their holiday home and do it with Villa again drawing a blank.
The hosts are 27/20 to not score in the game, but you may as well back that up with United to win to nil at 33/20. Even better value than that – and giving just as much scope – is the multiple correct score of 1-0, 2-0 or 3-0 to United at 11/5.
And even if you do fancy Villa to notch, I can’t see there being that many goals in this, so get on United with under 3.5 goals in the game at 29/20.
However, the best bit of business for me is reliant Robin to open the scoring in a 2-0 United win at a massive 18/1 and that’s got to be worth a couple of quid of anyone’s hard-earned.