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UNITED NOW 3RD FAVOURITES FOR 2020/21 PREMIER LEAGUE: A FAIR ASSESSMENT?

 

Ole-Gunnar Solskjaer

Things have gone pretty well for United over the last month. Perhaps no other team in English football has emerged from the enforced break with a bigger spring in its step than Ole Solskjaer’s side. Playing with a consistently entertaining style – backed up by the substance of results – that we have not witnessed in several years; things seem to be heading in the right direction. There is Europa League tournament to come in August, which United go into as the heavy favourites. But fans will also be looking towards the new season (set to start in September) and be wondering if United can mount a serious challenge to Liverpool and Manchester City?

According to the bookmakers, the answer to the above question is “definitely maybe”. According to MansionBet’s 2020/21 Premier League betting odds, United are 8/1 to win a first title since 2013. City are the even-money favourites, with Liverpool a shade behind at 6/4. Chelsea are a fair distance behind United at 14/1. 

United want more than being the best of the rest
United’s price of 8/1 is an interesting one. It’s not really long-shot territory, but nor does it say that the bookmakers have confidence in the side. Indeed, the fact that Liverpool and City are so far ahead of the rest of the pack (in the bookmakers’ eyes) suggests we have a situation not unlike La Liga with those two clubs in the Barcelona and Real Madrid roles, i.e. as perennial favourites. United, meanwhile, are the Atletico Madrid; the third wheel, or the best of the rest.
Of course, United fans will want more than being seen as the 3rd best team in England. And, in truth, the comparison to Atletico Madrid is probably a poor one. For all the admiration of Diego Simeone’s side over the last decade, there is a ceiling – put there by financial restrictions – to their ambitions. United have no such restrictions.
But when looking again at those odds, it’s perhaps more important to appreciate that they are malleable. 8/1 reflects United’s chances as they stand now. But they do not factor in the fact that United could improve more in the coming weeks and months. And, that’s arguably more important than the record-breaking scorelines that United achieved in the past four weeks. When pundits watch this young United side, they see one with the potential to get better.

Sancho signing is no longer critical to United’s hopes
And, there is the matter of new signings. This writer is not one who believes that United need major surgery. In fact, it is arguable that United should not disrupt the balance of the team that Solskjaer now has at his disposal. Jadon Sancho has long been rumoured as United’s prize this summer, but Mason Greenwood has made Sancho’s favoured right-wing position his own in recent weeks.

A world-class centre back might be the most pressing need for Solskjaer. Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire have done well at the heart of United’s defence, but there are question marks over the former. The Swede has often been caught out of position – see Southampton’s late equaliser recently – and can be flat-footed at times. As captain, Harry Maguire is at United for the long haul, but he might look better with a faster, more aggressive partner.

Harry Maguire

Regardless of who comes in the door at Old Trafford, there is good reason to believe in the team once again. A reality check might be needed as to the distance that still remains between United and the two other clubs based in the north-west of England. But for the first time in years, the gap seems to be narrowing between United and the Premier League’s best. And, the bookmakers seem to have recognised that fact.

 
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