While Liverpool look a terrific bet at 7/4 to inflict a fifth home loss of the Premier League campaign on Manchester United, Anfield chief Brendan Rodgers’ recent suggestion that the hosts are set for some time in the Champions League wilderness seems well wide of the mark.
The Reds travel to Old Trafford unbeaten in nine 2014 Premier League games, winning seven of them, and should have too much in reserve for a United side with an unconscious eye – despite the significance of this fixture – on their Champions League second-leg showdown with Olympiacos.
Indeed, navigating their way past the Greek side – who hold a 2-0 lead from the first leg – and somehow finding enough form to lift the trophy for the fourth time at 50/1 odds looks the only way for David Moyes’ men to remain amongst the continental elite next season.
Ladbrokes go 10/1 about United – who are 11 points behind third and fourth-placed Liverpool and Arsenal – retaining their place in the tournament next term and while those odds hold little appeal, the 4/9 about them next appearing in 2015/16’s renewal of the competition ought to be snapped up.
Anfield legend Kenny Dalglish described Liverpool as on ‘a crest of a wave’ and United on ‘a crest of a slump’, but the 12-time Premier League champions’ size and global reach dictates that they can’t stay on the ropes for long.
First off, their competition for a top-four spot in 2014/15 must be taken into account, and while the current top-three look to have locked out those spots for the foreseeable future, Arsenal, Everton and Spurs – who will be United’s only other realistic rivals for a Champions League place – have all shown vulnerabilities this season.
The Toffees – who are currently a place above old gaffer Moyes’ club in sixth – will need Roberto Martinez to work his transfer magic when loan stars Gareth Barry, Gerard Deulofeu and Romelu Lukaku head back to their parent clubs in the summer.
They’re far from certain to mount as strong a challenge next term, and while the north London pair have more experience as top-five clubs, Spurs look ever more likely for another summer of upheaval, while Arsene Wenger’s perpetual failure to sign a prolific striker makes the Gunners – who have taken one point from two games against United this season – a tough team to trust.
Moyes has a solid stock of youth and experience running through the squad and when he clears out some of the dead wood (no names need mentioning) and spends £100m-plus this summer – which the £37m January acquisition of Juan Mata suggests he will – everyone in the red half of Manchester will begin to feel a little better.
De Gea, Rafael, Jones, Evans, Carrick, Fletcher, Fellaini, Januzaj, Rooney, Welbeck, Mata, Van Persie. That’s not a bad starting point for United, who are set to break the bank like never before this summer, so just the one season out of the top four looks very much on the cards at 4/9.
When will Manchester United next play in the Champions League
5 or more seasons without Champions League football 6/1
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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