Today I have something a bit different for you, something to read and browse through during a Sunday Afternoon.
What follows is an article by a very close friend of mine, Liam. We have been friends since about the age of 5 and in recent years he’s been successfully developing his journalistic flair. I enjoy reading his stuff and I know you will too.
We are both football fans. I’m a Liverpool FC fan, as you know. He is a diehard ‘Manc’. We have had some good natured ‘banter’ over the years, as you would expect – indeed I think I still owe him £30 for a wager I made when predicting that Rafa Benitez would win us the league! – I hope he isn’t reading this 🙂
Anyway, I have promised to try and improve your experience of my blog and this is the first non-racing based content – so I will be interested to see how it is received. Those of you who have been generous enough to ‘donate’ have made this kind of article possible, as well as any future developments on this blog. Liam is a very good friend, but he still needs paying! 🙂
In what may become the first of many articles from him, this week Liam reflects on the current state of Man United, pouring salt in his open wounds. But, don’t feel too sorry for him, United deserve some time in the ‘wilderness!’
This article includes a few football punting pointers – mainly how you may profit from United’s current form in their next three games. He also touches on Arsenal, Manchester City and an interesting bet in the Championship.
This is meant to be a light hearted, enjoyable read, with a splattering of fun betting pointers.
I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.
Over to Liam…
Profiting from Man United’s misery
For much of my 27 and a bit years on this earth, I’ve been spoilt.
No, not in terms of always getting what I’ve wanted, the latest toys, gadgets and flash holidays to far flung countries. Instead, it’s the footballing world that has provided me with an embarrassment of riches.
Born to a father that followed Manchester United up and down the country and across the continent for much of the 1980s and 1990s, my club has won 13 Premier League titles, five FA Cups, four League Cups, two Champions Leagues and the Cup Winners’ Cup since November 1988 – the month/year I was born.
A trophy-winning machine that frequently made mincemeat of the opposition with a swashbuckling, care-free attitude to football. There were numerous stages throughout my late teens and early 20s where it seemed like it would never end.
It has, though, and in spectacular fashion. To list the reasons why would see me far exceed the word limit I’ve been provided with and would no doubt send you to sleep – a bit like tuning in to watch Louis van Gaal’s men. Suffice to say this has slowly been coming for some time now.
At the time of writing, eight victories have been collected from the last 25 games in all competitions. Bad results and even bad seasons can and will inevitably happen, but it’s the soul-sapping, mundane and attack-free nature of the performances that have seen the supporters lose faith and patience.
No fan can believe that their team has a define right to win and challenge for the top prizes campaign after campaign, but it is not too much to want to be entertained – unless Tony Pulis is your manager, of course – sorry to those of a Baggies persuasion, cheap dig!
All the more so when you consider the prices punters are being charged. Quite what the Liverpool owners thought they were doing hiking up prices so drastically when their team is churning out such inconsistent displays right now is beyond me. Thankfully, common sense has prevailed, but there is much more work to do – again, a subject for another day!
So, while the rest of the nation seems to be basking in the satisfaction of seeing a giant dramatically slayed, it’s left me to act like the spoilt kid I’ve already confessed to being – sulking and feeling sorry for myself.
There will be people reading this that are rightly scoffing. After all, many fans would give their right arm to see their team fifth in the Premier League, as well as challenging in the latter stages of the FA Cup and Europa League.
Yet, there is one thing we can all agree on – it’s always good to earn some extra cash. As United’s campaign flits from mishap to mishap, let’s try to do just that.
Shrewsbury – Monday, February 22
In the current circumstances, could a Shrewsbury win over United be branded one of the great FA Cup shocks? Yes, the Shrews may be fighting against relegation down to League Two, but it would be hard to compare it to Ronnie Radford’s heroics against Newcastle United or Bradford coming from two behind to topple Chelsea. If anything, United coming through as winners would be the biggest upset (typed with tongue only half planted in cheek!)
The bookies seem to agree, with most pricing Shrewsbury at around 15/2 to win (in years gone by teams in the third tier were often 16-20/1) and the draw at 4/1. The draw in particular is a tempting one to back, given that United have struggled against lower league outfits at times over recent years. The likes of Crawley Town, Exeter City, Burton Albion and Cambridge United have all earned surprise replays against the Red Devils.
If the goalscoring market is your thing and you’re looking for a bit of value, Shrewsbury’s Andy Mangan is 9/2 (Bwin) to find the net at any time. The 29-year-old has scored four goals in his last eight outings, while United have kept just three clean sheets from their 10 matches in 2016.
For a real long shot and with United’s frailties from set-pieces taken into consideration, Shrewsbury defenders Nathaniel Knight-Percival and Zak Whitbread are 40/1 and 66/1 (both William Hill) to score at any stage.
From a United point of view, Memphis Depay comes across as easily dislikeable with the flashy cars, earrings and designer gear. But, underneath all of that, there is a footballer in there – he showed that at PSV Eindhoven and with the Netherlands at the 2014 World Cup. He’s almost certain to start against Shrewsbury and buoyed by his goal last time out against Midtylland, 9/2 (William Hill) for the number seven to score the game’s first goal shouldn’t be sniffed at.
And one more, it could well be worth backing the draw at half-time. After all, from United’s last 18 matches in all competitions, they have held the lead at the interval just twice. The draw/draw is 11/2, with draw/United 16/5 (Paddy Power) – it would not be a shock were either of those come up.
FC Midtylland – Thursday, February 25
Where do you even start with last Thursday? United may have been up against a side that had not played a competitive fixture in two months and before that had won one of their last 10, yet as the game wore on the 2-1 victory for the Danes felt inevitable.
Considering the opposition were only formed in 1999 and are hardly a household name, it’s arguably United’s most embarrassing defeat since Bournemouth in 1984. It was so bad that I wish I’d been round Nick Powell’s house playing FIFA, as he confessed to doing instead of watching his parent club!
The format of the Europa League means that United have the chance to redeem themselves with a second leg at Old Trafford – another 90 minutes to enjoy/endure (delete appropriately).
For some reason (perhaps blind loyalty) I actually still expect United to qualify, despite their negative recent record in the competition. Of their last five Europa League encounters, the men from Manchester have been defeated four times.
Despite the deficit, the bookies make United odds on to advance to the last 16, so that’s not worth touching. One thing is for sure, if they do go through, it won’t be straight forward – it rarely is with United in Europe. With that in mind, 11/10 (Paddy Power) for both teams to score gets my money.
Arsenal – Sunday, February 28
There was once a time when these two sides were comfortably the best two in the country. It was a contest that would often go a long way to deciding the destination of the title. Yet, while Arsenal have their eyes trained firmly on the top prize, United’s role in this particular game has been reduced to that of party pooper.
Again, I don’t think United are going to lose this one and there is a bit more logic behind that opinion this time!
Van Gaal has plenty of flaws and faults (too many too list), but one of those is not his record in the big domestic games. In their four meetings with the current top quartet, United have lost only once and are also unbeaten against Chelsea and Liverpool. On top of that, last season they were beaten just twice in the six encounters against the teams that finished above them in the table. It’s by no means pretty on the eye, but being a well organised unit pays dividends in these type of games.
Draw/Man United for the half-time/full time at 11/2 (Bet 365) is worth your consideration, as is draw/draw (15/4).
Wayne Rooney would have been the obvious goalscorer to back, given that he has found the net on 14 occasions against the Gunners. But, with the captain injured, try Juan Mata, who is also United’s penalty taker. He’s 11/1 and 4/1 (Bet 365) to score anytime or first respectively.
If you have an inkling that Arsenal are going to net first, then Olivier Giroud is the man to be backing. The Frenchman can be frustrating in front of goal, but he’s particularly impressive in the air – an area where United are weak at present. He’s 11/2 (Bet 365) to notch first.
The small matter of Barca…
Talking of the North Londoners, they scraped through the Champions League group stages by the skin of their teeth. Yet, they might end up wishing that they hadn’t of bothered going to all the effort of that dramatic win in Olympiacos, given that they have been paired with reigning champions Barcelona.
These two are certainly no strangers, having met seven times since 1999. When they do clash, one thing is invariably guaranteed – goals. In those aforementioned seven games, 27 goals have been scored. Only once has there been less than three goals in a game, while on three occasions there has been four goals plus. For the first leg at the Emirates Stadium on February 23rd, total goals over 3.5 is 11/8 (with Coral) and over 4.5 is 16/5 (also Coral).
Champions League football in Manchester
It is crazy to think that but for the heroics of a less-than-athletic Nicky Weaver in goal during the 1999 Division Two play-off final, Manchester City would have been out in the wilderness with no likelihood of returning.
Fast forward to 2016 and the Citizens are one of the richest clubs in the world, with some of the highest-earning players on their books. And, of course, the game’s most revered coach will soon be strutting his stuff on the Etihad Stadium touchline. The swing in Manchester is well and truly underway – over to you, Jose!
First, though, it’s down to Manuel Pellegrini to negotiate the team’s way through the remainder of the season. Still in the title race, his side are actually fighting on four fronts. They remain in the Champions League, with Dynamo Kiev standing in their way of a place in the quarter-finals for the first time in the club’s history.
In their first two Champions League quests in 2011 and 2012, the Citizens were hopeless on the road, losing five of their six away matches.
More recently, though, three wins in their previous five outings would suggest that they have cured that travel sickness and 11/10 (with Paddy Power) for them to win in Ukraine is worth considering when you learn that Kiev have won only one of their last five home matches in the Champions League.
I’ll leave you with one line from the Championship and it involves Cardiff City.
As far as the playoffs are concerned, there is quite often one team that arrives late in the day and that momentum carries them all the way to Wembley and then into the Premier League. This time around, that may very well be the Bluebirds.
Having smashed Brighton 4-1 on Saturday, they are now just four points adrift of the top six with 14 matches left to play. On top of that, they also have to face the likes of Derby County, Burnley and Sheffield Wednesday, all of whom are just above them. Cardiff’s destiny is very much in their own hands, so a few quid on them to gain promotion either automatically or via the playoffs at 25/1 could end up proving to be a nice little earner.
Right, that’s enough from me, I’m off to watch Shrewsbury v United through the cracks in my fingers. Good luck with any wagers you opt to place and until next time, goodbye.
Do post a comment if you enjoyed the read and wish to see more. He has a flair for all sports etc and in the future there may be some cricket based articles, athletics, cycling etc Who knows?!
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