Man United fans are never happy are they...?
They’ve been complaining about a lack of excitement all season. The crowd chanting ‘attack, attack, attack’… Paul Scholes calling for players to rake risks… Then after a rip-roaring, end-to-end, gung-ho Champions League display, they all want the manager sacked!
They did lose though, which never used to be in the script. And means the fans and Paul Scholes have the ignominy of Europa League matches to moan about now. The fact is, United’s great period is over. Done. Finished.
That’s not to say there won’t be another, but not until pups like Martial, Memphis and Lingard have a few more miles on the clock. Would the recently jettisoned van Persie, Falcao, Nani, Welbeck, et al done better? Who knows.
They’ll get no sympathy at Bournemouth. Any one of either list would probably take care of their entire annual wage bill. But they wouldn’t have swapped any of them for Glenn Murray in the 82nd minute of last week’s win at Chelsea.
But there’s half a coupon to consider before we get to that. Starting with…
12.45 Norwich v Everton
Everton are building up a head of steam. Led by their talisman Romelu Lukaku – who has hit seven in his last six – the Toffees are unbeaten since October. But they are struggling to find their rhythm on the road. Just one win in six away trips will encourage Norwich. Who need it after just one win in ten.
Score Prediction: Sticky afternoon for Norwich. 1-2
MVP Prediction: Romelu Lukaku is your man.
15.00 Crystal Palace v Southampton
This could be the tipping point for a mini crisis for Saints. Just a point at home to Villa to show for the last three PL outings – and ‘that’ Liverpool match in the Cup, of course. With Spurs and Arsenal up next, this looks pivotal. Ronald Koeman won’t be pleased to see Wilfried Zaha and Bakary Sako back for Palace.
Score Prediction: Has to be Palace. 2-1
MVP Prediction: Scott Dann is the 3rd best defender in the PL according EA Sports.
15.00 Man City v Swansea
Just one win in four for City, but with a so far successful CL campaign put to bed until February you’d expect more settled form. Newly manager-less Swansea might get a reaction – if only from players looking for a January move. But it looks a nice match for Sergio Aguero to make his (latest) comeback.
Score Prediction: Got to be City. 2-0
MVP Prediction: Aleksander Kolarov is even better than Scott Dann according to EA Sports!
15.00 Sunderland v Watford
Watford are a stats-geek’s dream. They lose v Top Six (all five matches), mainly draw v Mid-table (three from five) and mainly beat Bottom Six (four from five). That means away win, although Sunderland’s recent form (W3 L3) might upset the matrix. Fletcher and Defoe should be back for Big Sam. Could make the difference.
Score Prediction: Honours even. 1-1
MVP Prediction: Doesn’t roll off the tongue like Vardy, but Odion Ighalo is ‘the man’.
15.00 West Ham v Stoke
The wheels came off West Ham around Christmas last year and they’re showing signs of buckling again. Dimitri Payet is a big miss, but Winston Reid hamstring injury will hurt too. Particularly with Stoke’s front three making hay. Three wins in their last four – and four clean sheets in five – will see their PL position and manager Mark Hughes’ stock rise.
Score Prediction: Four of Stoke’s last five wins have been 1-0. So 0-1
MVP Prediction: Bojan Krkic makes them tick.
17.30 Bournemouth v Man United
Perhaps after their rip-roaring 2-3 exit from the CL, United fans might change their mind about wanting exciting football. Bournemouth fans would happily swap some of the thrills for more points. Their recent roller-coaster 2-2 and 3-3 draws were tinged with regret. Chris Smalling’s absence will be felt more than Matteo Darmian’s for United, by the look of Guillermo Varela (one for the notebooks at just £4.2m, PL.com managers!).
Score Prediction: Another end-to-end 2-2
MVP Prediction: I think Anthony Martial is waiting to explode.
13.30 Aston Villa v Arsenal
At this stage last season all three relegated teams had more than double Villa’s six points (although Leicester only had ten!). On the upside, they aren’t getting thrashed - nine of their 11 defeats have been by a single goal. On the downside, Arsenal have just had their best ever result in Europe. It might’ve taken its toll. But probably not enough of one.
Score Prediction: Another narrow defeat. 1-2
MVP Prediction: Mesut Ozil has found his feet.
16.00 Liverpool v West Brom
Liverpool haven’t quite caught fire at home. Low key wins v Swansea and Bournemouth don’t compare to the three, four and six-star away performances v Chelsea, City and Southampton. West Brom’s away record is the best in the PL so could prove stubborn opposition. Plus, they’ve won two of their last four visits. Oh and Daniel Sturridge is… yup, you guessed it.
Score Prediction: Baggies could smuggle a point out. 1-1
MVP Prediction: Phillipe Coutinho is a match winner.
20.00 Leicester v Chelsea
The 2015/16 season is the story of these two teams. This time last year Chelsea were already away and clear. Leicester were rooted. Defeat here and Chelsea could be in the Bottom Three. (Unlikely, but you get the point). It took a long time to write-off Chelsea as title contenders. It’s taking longer still for Leicester to be afforded the same status. Perhaps they need to win this one.
Score Prediction: And why not? 3-1
MVP Prediction: The other one this time. Riyad Mahrez.
That’s how it looks from here…
Until next time.
Matt Nesbitt’s short, unspectacular but joyful playing career has given way to a much longer, more successful but immeasurably more rubbish one writing about football and providing betting advice. Email: Matt Nesbitt