You know when the ‘mind games’ begin in earnest, the Premier League title race really is hotting up.
And so it has been this week, where Sir Alex Ferguson used his post-match press conference on Friday to accuse Manchester City of ‘desperation’ for their eagerness to welcome Carlos Tevez back into the fold for the Citizens’ vital 2-1 win over Chelsea in midweek.
Of course, Ferguson dressed up his comments as a response to Patrick Vieira, who claimed re-signing Paul Scholes was a sign of ‘weakness’ and in typically belligerent manner, the Manchester United manager warned City counterpart Roberto Mancini that he has ‘plenty of ammunition’ to use against his title rivals as the run-in becomes serious.
Of course, all this means very little in the scheme of things – it’s only tabloid hacks that fall for all this mind games guff – but the significance is that tensions are already coming to the boil and with just one point separating the teams with only nine fixtures left, the battle between the Manchester clubs is promising to be one of the closest, and badly fraught, title showdowns in recent memory.
Fulham’s record at Old Trafford is predictably terrible. The last seven results have been 2-0, 3-0, 3-0, 2-0, 5-1, 4-2 and 1-0 home wins and all the evidence is there for a convincing United triumph.
Ferguson might thrive on this sort of confrontation, but really he should trust his players to do the business on the pitch.
Because if you exclude some bad performances in the cups (they were taught a lesson by Athletic Bilbao in the Europa League) that’s exactly what United have been doing since the turn of year – eight wins and a draw from nine league games is title-winning form for sure and United will have no issues in continuing that run against Fulham at Old Trafford on Monday night.
Understandably, bwin make the Red Devils very strong favourites at 11/50 to pick up three points, with the draw at 19/4 and Fulham rank outsiders at 12/1.
You don’t need me to tell you that Fulham aren’t winning this one. Martin Jol has done a fine enough job with the Cottagers and is able to look at the league table and see his side a comfortable 13 points above the relegation zone with a top-half finish a possibility.
Unfortunately for Jol, I fear his players might already be thinking of the beach. It certainly looked that way in Fulham’s last two fixtures – scoreless defeats to Aston Villa and Swansea City – and with the Dutchman unable to arrest Fulham’s long-standing poor away form, you have to fear for them when they travel north on Monday.
With just two wins and a desperately poor eight goals in 14 away trips this season, Fulham pose no threat to United’s winning run and for me it is a question of how many the Red Devils can win by.
In that respect, I like the 3/2 that United win by three goals or more. That has been the case in eight of United’s league wins this season and with goals on Ferguson’s agenda as he tries to improve United’s inferior goal difference, he will see this as a great opportunity to do just that.
What’s more, Fulham’s record at Old Trafford is predictably terrible. The last seven results have been 2-0, 3-0, 3-0, 2-0, 5-1, 4-2 and 1-0 home wins and all the evidence is there for a convincing United triumph.
I want to be on the fact it will be by more than two goals so I’ll be taking those 3/2 odds by backing the Red Devils to prevail in the 0-2 handicap market.
Recommended bet: Man Utd to beat Fulham by at least three goals @ 3/2
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