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Moyes needs Mata to hit the ground running for Man Utd

Coral might have taken bets on whether the appearance of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer or Juan Mata would produce the loudest cheers around Old Trafford on Tuesday night.

Solskjaer, returning as Cardiff City’s new boss, represents Manchester United’s glorious past with six Premier League title medals and a legendary late, late winner to win the 1999 Champions League final.

But it is Mata, the Reds’ £37m record signing from Chelsea, who, more importantly, represents the future and David Moyes will be looking to the brilliant Spaniard to hit the ground running and help a struggling United turn their season around.

Coral go a best-priced 7/1 that Mata scores first or last for his new club (2/1 at any time), but home fans won’t care too much who gets the goals, as long as somebody does.

United’s recent Capital One Cup semi-final clash against Sunderland was best summed up as like a clash between two mid-table teams, which in current circumstances was a compliment to the Black Cats, but a slur on the reigning Premier League champions.

Any lingering hopes of retaining the title were surely extinguished when Chelsea beat them 3-1 at Stamford Bridge and now it’s all about a Champions League spot – Coral go 11/5 they finish in the top four.

Cardiff are desperately in need of points of their own (evens to be relegated) and won’t be too optimistic of turning the tide against a side they haven’t beaten since 1960. Mind you, they have met only six times since then and anyway, the Bluebirds wouldn’t be the first team to buck a long trend at Old Trafford this season.

Solskjaer will also be hoping for a quick return on his investments in the January transfer window, particularly Jo Inge Bridget, who played for him at Molde. The 23-year-old Norwegian forward is 7/2 to score on his debut (10/1 first or last), the same price as Fraizer Campbell, who, since leaving United, has made quite a habit of scoring against the two Manchester clubs.

Arsenal have surprised many by staying at the top of the table for so long (they are 4/1 with Coral to win the title), but it’s going to get tougher and tougher from now on with Manchester City (11/10) and Chelsea (13/5) breathing down their necks and difficult games like Southampton away to negotiate.

Arsene Wenger’s men have, however, bounced back brilliantly on the road since thrashed 6-3 by Man City, winning at West Ham, Newcastle and Aston Villa.

Southampton (11/4) have the quality to give the Gunners a real scare, especially with Rickie Lambert back after injury, but Arsenal (19/20) are looking solid enough at the moment to be fairly confident of another good result, perhaps 2-1 (8/1).