Weekend Premiership Preview
Sir Alex Ferguson is a better manager than he ever was now that he has retired with everybody, it seems, concluding that Manchester United’s poor current form solely down to the old boss not being in charge any more.
Certainly it hasn’t been the best of starts to the season, the worst after six games since 1989, and there doesn’t appear to be any obvious reason why things should change dramatically for the better until David Moyes is able to strengthen his first team in the January transfer window.
The meagre points tally isn’t all that important. String a few wins together and things can look much better very quickly. It’s more the feeling that United have lost their intimidating presence. Nobody is frightened of them any more, certainly not West Brom last week, not even the bookies – Coral have pushed them out to 7/1 for the title and aren’t getting knocked over in the rush.
So tomorrow’s game at Sunderland is a must-win for United. Otherwise the alarm bells will really start to clang as the Old Trafford faithful begin to worry that Moyes’ boys might not even finish the season in the top four.
Sunderland, bottom of the league with just one point and no manager at the moment, have problems of their own, of course, but this is not a great time to be playing them. Liverpool may not have felt any backlash last weekend after Paolo Di Canio’s dismissal, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be any from players eager to impress their new boss, whoever that may be.
All things being equal, United (8/13) should win this, but things just aren’t the same at Old Trafford at the moment and nobody will be too surprised if this ends up a draw (11/4), maybe 1-1 (13/2).
Martin Jol is the new favourite to be next Premiership boss to lose his job and there is immense pressure on the Dutchman to oversee a home victory tomorrow against Stoke to take them out of the relegation zone.
Fulham have some very good, experienced players in their squad, like Dimitar Berbatov, Darren Bent and Scott Parker, but they are all past their peak and there doesn’t seem to be the resources at Craven Cottage to bring in younger talent.
Stoke, under former Fulham boss Mark Hughes, have changed their style of play to such an extent that Potters fans are wondering whether the Welshman has gone too far. With both sides bidding to bounce back after disheartening home defeats last weekend, this also has the look of a draw about it (23/10).
One game unlikely to end in a stalemate is at Anfield, where high-flying Liverpool (2/9) take on relegation favourites, Crystal Palace. Luis Suarez has been quick to get back on the scoresheet after returning from his lengthy ban and is 4/7 to be on the mark again at any time, 5/2 to score first or last and 8/1 to notch a hat-trick.
Written by Jon Freeman