There’s no doubt that there will be red ribbons tied around the arms of the Premier League trophy for the next 12 months, but Manchester United are hardly romping home to the title in grandstand fashion.
They were well outplayed and deservedly beaten at home to Manchester City on Monday night and that came on the back of a similarly limp performance in going out of the FA Cup to Chelsea the week before.
Even prior to that, there were a couple of grinds against Reading and Sunderland and what once promised to be a glorious sprint to the finish line now resembles a wheezing, spluttering plod and they will have to summon up energy from somewhere for another battle of attrition at Stoke City on Sunday afternoon.
Visits to the Britannia Stadium are rarely won with much artistic merit and that may suit United, who are far from their free-flowing best at present.
The Potters are unlikely to add much aesthetics to the occasion either and they’re in need of the points just as much as the Reds are having been sucked into the relegation dogfight courtesy of a dismal 2013.
Tony Pulis’ side have picked up just one draw in their last five league games to leave them three points above the drop zone and over the course of the year it’s just a solitary win from a dozen outings.
I can’t see Stoke ending their winless run, but I do have a sneaky feeling they could be good for a point, and if you follow my lead there are a few tasty prices on offer.
Unsurprisingly, bwin’s 3way betting market has the league leaders as odds-on 11/20 favourites, with Stoke miles out at 21/4 and the draw at 11/4, and if I was a betting man – which I am – I’d be having a look at shared spoils.
United have only scored two in their last three games and they were both own goals. Even before that, they needed a huge deflection to get past Reading and also required a Real Madrid own goal after managing to score two themselves in the first FA Cup clash with Chelsea.
Robin van Persie looked a million dollars in parts against City, but chances were sparse and the Dutchman’s scoreless sequence now stretches to ten games.
Regardless of that, RVP still heads all scoring markets and is 7/2 to notch first and the same price to finish things off. If he can get himself one of those Fernando Torres Zorro masks he might rediscover his mojo, but even still, there’s better value to be found than him to score at any time at 11/10.
Without the former Arsenal man’s goals, United don’t look they’ve got many in them and if they are to get the victory, I reckon it could come after the half-time draw at 333/100.
You can also nearly treble your dollar at 39/20 on the game being goalless at the break and regardless of the outcome, either side to win 1-0 is great value at 23/10.
Going for the Stoke win might be a bit far fetched but they’re obdurate enough to make this a contest and if they can hoof it high and long for large periods, I fancy them to hold United.
The hosts are hardly the most prolific of sides themselves and have only found the back of the net twice in their past six games, but I’m leaning towards them roughing the Reds up and 1-1 at a massive 23/4 is certainly worth a go.
But coming back to reality, I wouldn’t put it past Ferguson’s side to out-Stoke Stoke and battle it out for a narrow win. United to prevail 1-0 is 5/1 and given I reckon there will be few goals on offer, that might be your best line of attack if you’re backing the champions-elect.
New customers registering with bwin are entitled to a free £20 bet and sticking that on the 1-1 draw could trouser you £135, or alternatively the 1-0 United win gives just as good returns at £120.
I will be on the former, but of course, it’s your call – good luck.