Here’s a question. When does blowing an eight-point lead at the top of the table over the space of four games during the run-in not constitute choking?
Answer: when you’re Manchester United. Apparently what we’ve seen is just ‘another twist’ in the Premier League title race, but I can’t help but think that if it was anyone other than Mr Ferguson’s team who allowed their local rivals to make up that ground, culminating in that disgraceful performance in Monday night’s 1-0 loss to Manchester City, all the talk would be about ‘mind games’ and ‘bottling it’.
But as we know, mind games are a concept that only comes into play when Ferguson wins, never when he loses. Could you imagine the reaction if Roberto Mancini had lost it on the touchline the way the purple-nosed one did on Monday?
People would be falling over themselves to say how Ferguson ‘had got to him’ and that Mancini was in meltdown. Well, the reality is that the reverse is true, there is no question about that (as Ferguson says after every sentence).
I cannot believe either the team Ferguson picked, or how poor United were on Monday. Devoid of spirit and quality, they made Blackburn’s performance at Tottenham a day earlier look like Brazil circa 1970, such was their utterly spineless and cowardly display.
It isn’t the first time United have been utterly hopeless this year (City at home, Crystal Palace, Blackburn, Newcastle, Basel, Athletic Bilbao over two legs) and for me they have seldom played like champions all season.
I cannot believe either the team Ferguson picked, or how poor United were on Monday. Devoid of spirit and quality, they made Blackburn’s performance at Tottenham a day earlier look like Brazil circa 1970.
Luckily for United, City have a terribly tough assignment at Newcastle that may yet let them back in the title race, as United will certainly win their last two fixtures, starting with Swansea City’s visit to Old Trafford on Sunday.
The prices are as you would expect, with United the firm favourites at 9/50, the draw at 11/2 and Swansea priced as big outsiders at 27/2.
So as usual, there is no value whatsoever in going for United straight out, but there is a rather significant factor to consider when thinking about punting on this match, and it has nothing to do with events at Old Trafford.
Up in the north-east, City will lock horns with Newcastle a few hours before United take to the field. A win for Mancini’s men essentially wraps up the title (QPR aren’t getting anything on the last day) but anything else lets United back in.
Could you imagine the spring in the United step if City were to drop points? Alternatively, imagine how flat both the players and the atmosphere will be should the Citizens pick up three points to all but win the league.
As we know, there is no value in a home win, so I’m going to take the view that there could well be a subdued atmosphere at Old Trafford come kick off and there could be some value in the 6/5 that Manchester United win a match that sees under 3.5 goals.
Swansea have been absolutely brilliant under Brendan Rodgers this year and will go to Old Trafford and enjoy passing the ball on that large pitch – they should command plenty of possession.
Admittedly, they lack a killer instinct away from home, having scored just seven goals in nine fixtures on the road against teams in the top half of the table.
But they have enough about them to keep the score down, as before the thrashing of a pitiful Aston Villa side and the crazy 4-4 draw with Everton, United hadn’t scored more than two goals at home in their previous ten home fixtures.
Recommended bet: Man Utd to win a game of less than four goals @ 6/5
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