Manchester United must put in top quality performance against Preston
Manchester United, odds-on favourites at 1/2 with Coral to win over 90 minutes, make the short journey to Lancashire to take on Preston North End, in what appears to be a favourable fifth round FA Cup clash.
Louis van Gaal’s men have arguably received the kindest draws of any Premier League side so far, having previously been pitted against minnows Yeovil Town and Cambridge United.
The might of Manchester’s red side has so far not been on show in those duels, however, with United making hard work of their route to this round.
Against local rivals Preston, United hold the head-to-head record with 31 victories, and will be hungry to assert their authority on the competition.
The Old Trafford outfit have come under criticism for turgid performances recently, but Van Gaal’s team have undoubtedly discovered a formula for picking up points.
Unbeaten in six outings, and having put 10 past their opponents in their last four games, back the Red Devils at 6/1 to run rampant and score four or more.
With composed anchorman Michael Carrick sidelined and goal hero Daley Blind a doubt, it is expected that, much to the disappointment of fans, skipper Wayne Rooney (5/1 to open the floodgates) will find himself shoehorned into a deeper midfield role once again.
This could bring another opportunity for teenage poaching prodigy James Wilson to slot in up top alongside Radamel Falcao, as Robin Van Persie also looks set to be sidelined.
Rapid Wilson provides the likes of Angel Di Maria and Juan Mata with a pacy outlet and willing runner, so, after netting against Cambridge, the fleet-footed forward is 5/4 to score anytime or 5/1 to grab the last goal again.
Simon Grayson’s side, meanwhile, will feel they have every chance to trouble travelling United, who have triumphed in just two of their last six outings away from Old Trafford.
North End, emboldened by the recent giant killings of Chelsea and Manchester City, are 6/1 to claim a famous scalp at Deepdale and highlight the Red Devils’ lack of fluidity and cohesion.
Grayson, when in charge of Roses rivals Leeds United, once masterminded a memorable cup win over the Manchester men, and will be hoping his plucky underdogs can put in a repeat of that performance.
Van Gaal’s side is notably vulnerable at centre back and, with Phil Jones injured yet again, plus Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling posting suspect form, Preston’s poachers will be primed.
Jermaine Beckford, who struck for Leeds to sink United under Grayson’s guidance, is unlikely to make the match after suffering an ear infection, but is 18/1 to strike last and help topple United if he recovers in time.
The hosts will still have former Bolton Wanderers and Southampton striker Kevin Davies at their disposal, however, and the experienced England cap is 4/1 to fire home anytime.
Blackburn-born, and former Rovers star, Joe Garner, who has recently returned from a lengthy lay-off, will also be hoping to steal headlines in Beckford’s absence, making him 9/1 to draw first blood.
Winger Paul Gallagher, meanwhile, who has five goals in Preston’s FA Cup run, is a tasty 10/3 to net again anytime.