Man Utd suffer from the spot to spurn huge opportunity
Manchester United wasted a massive chance to put pressure on Premier League leaders Manchester City and have consequently drifted all the way out from 13/8 to 11/5 to retain the title.
25 hours before their pacesetting neighbours were due to head out at Anfield for what promises to be one of their toughest matches of the season – fresh from misery in Europe – the champions had the chance to close within two points.
Yet against a Newcastle side who were expected to be deflated having suffered their first Premier League defeat of the campaign seven days earlier at the Etihad Stadium, Sir Alex Ferguson’s team claimed just a point.
There was no doubting who Ferguson blamed for their first domestic draw in over 13 months at Old Trafford after a run of 24 wins and an unforgettable loss, as he fumed at linesman John Flynn’s decision to award the visitors a penalty.
Demba Ba equalised from the spot after Rio Ferdinand was wrongly punished for a challenge in the box on Hatem Ben Arfa from which he won the ball, and the Magpies then held on heroically despite the dismissal of Jonas Gutierrez.
It was the former West Ham striker’s ninth Premier League goal since his summer switch to St James’ Park, moving him level with Wayne Rooney and four behind current top scorer Robin van Persie, but he is a 25/1 outsider to claim the honour.
The result presents Manchester City – now 8/15 favourites to finish first – with the opportunity to pull seven points at the summit, while Tottenham also took advantage with a ninth victory in ten away to West Brom.
Spurs trail Manchester United by two points with a game in hand, suggesting that Harry Redknapp’s talk of a title push might not have been as fanciful as it initially appeared, though odds of 20/1 are still available on the prospect.
The Red Devils meanwhile are overwhelming 1/5 favourites to bounce back from the blip by beating Crystal Palace in their Carling Cup quarter-final on Wednesday.