It’s the Special One against the Chosen One at Stamford Bridge today in one of the key matches in the Premier League season. This might be a case of the heart ruling the head but this is a match that could produce a win for the away team and at the relative odds on offer Manchester United look a decent bet to beat Chelsea live on Sky Sports on Sunday afternoon.
In the context of which team will win the league this fixture may not be as significant as in previous seasons. Pundits who have a vested interest in an open Premier League season are talking it up as the most open in many years. I just do not agree with that analysis and in six weeks a Manchester club could be well clear but sadly from a personal perspective they will be wearing sky blue and not red shirts.
Manchester City have allowed other teams into the mix due to some poor away from in the first half of the season. They seem to have put that right and given a decent return on the road City can win the league by five points or more. Put simply they have the biggest financial resources which allows them to buy the best players and pay the highest wages.
In this respect things could get worse before getting better for the chasing pack. At some stage in his career Lionel Messi may want to play in the English league and it is a frightening thought that the team with the most clout to finance a deal is City. In terms of wealth their owners from Abu Dhabi could even outbid Roman Abramovich in the battle of the bulging bank accounts.
You can bet on Manchester City winning every remaining match at home in the Premier League season and this looks a sound investment. They have already beaten United, Arsenal and Liverpool at home and only Chelsea of their main rivals have yet to visit the Etihad. The philosophy seems to be we can outscore any opponents on our own patch where they are averaging more than four goals a game this season.
The bookmakers will be looking for United and some other underdogs to win this weekend. Apparently the industry suffered the worst day since the Frankie Dettori Magnificent Seven in 1996 last Saturday with five odds on favourites winning in the Premiership. There was no respite the following day when City and Liverpool won for the favourite backers and Arsenal’s win over Aston Villa on Monday completed the set for the punters.
Not only did the eight odds on favourites in the Premier League win last weekend fancied teams in the Championship and League One also did the business. In total 25 of the 29 shortest priced teams on the coupons won their matches and numerous small punters won big amounts on multiple team accumulators. Share prices in William Hill and Ladbrokes dipped at even the City latched on to an unprecedented set of poor results for the bookmakers.
The major players in the industry have said that this type of results are factored into the budgets and they can withstand the losses. They argue that winning weeks for the punters boost turnover and that can only be good for them in the long run. Apparently in the last World Cup the favourites won the first 32 matches in the tournament and bookies enjoyed fantastic levels of turnover. No doubt a string of outsiders winning at the Cheltenham Festival will help to balance the books.
These freak results do tend to balance out over time and the bookies will be relishing punters reinvesting their winnings and Chelsea will be seen as home bankers by many. The Press will focus on the meeting of the managers and it’s true that Jose Mourinho and David Moyes will get plenty of media attention ahead of the match. It’s an intriguing thought that when this fixture is played next season Mourinho could be the manager of United.
That scenario will only come about if Moyes is not given the time he has been promised to build his own side rather than work with the one inherited from Sir Alex Ferguson. He needs to get Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney back in his side scoring goals and show intent to do some transfer business at the very latest in the summer.
This fixture has been pivotal with regards who wins the league in recent years both in London and at Old Trafford. Another defeat for United and the league has definitely gone but if they can the win and the other contenders falter they are back on the periphery of proceedings. I’m trying to get away from my allegiance but I still believe United are good value at to win this match.
The club have said they can live with one season not playing in the Champions League but if that became two there would be serious cash flow shortfalls to overcome. This is where the length of Moyes tenure of the job comes into play. If United finish outside the top four this season and next the owners may abandon the project and turn to Mourinho to steady the ship.
However, this match could still be just a subplot to the main story of Manchester City winning the league for the second time in three years. They have coped with the enforced absence of Sergio Aguero as Pablo Negredo and Edin Dzeko have helped to maintain the scoring rate. Going off on a tangent somewhat I think Aguero is a great price at to be top goalscorer in the World Cup, especially as he plays for a South American country that could become world champions in Brazil.
The World Cup is five months away and in the meantime the Premier League has to be decided. As much as Chelsea and United believe they can have a say Manchester City are good enough in all areas of the field to win the league title with something to spare.