With the new Premier League season set to get underway, it’s going to come as a surprise to absolutely no one that most pundits and sportsbooks believe Man City will be champions again. Pep Guardiola’s men are odds-on to retain the title. City are expected to reinforce – Jack Grealish and Harry Kane are the big names mentioned – an already excellent squad, so it’s no surprise to see the team backed by experts and bookies alike.
And yet, from a purely sports betting perspective, there is a lot to like about the 8/1 (+800) odds for Manchester United. That’s a big price for the team that finished second last season, not to mention a team that has brought two world-class signings into the squad so far this summer. City deserve to be favorites, but United should arguably be a little shorter in the markets – for reasons we will set out below:
For fans of most teams, the Transfer Window usually ends up in disappointment. The transfer rumors that fly across the internet and tabloid newspapers are mostly unfounded, and it’s an affliction of every fan that they want more than what their club ends up with. However, when we take a more pragmatic view, the goal for every club is to address problem positions and improve where possible.
Last season, United had two main issues: A partner for Harry Maguire in the heart of defense (Victor Lindelof lacks pace; Eric Bailly is seen as too unreliable), and the lack of attacking options on the right flank. With the arrival of Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho, both of those issues have been properly addressed to the satisfaction of critics and fans alike.
There are, of course, other problems that need solving. United could do with a more dominant defensive midfielder, and there is a lack of quality back-up at left and right full-back. Kieran Trippier might solve the second issue if his much-rumored move from Atletico Madrid occurs.
But even if the defensive midfield position is not fixed, the issue was never as glaring as those at right-wing and center back. Moreover, the pace, presence and guile of Varane will potentially alleviate the pressure on United’s midfield, allowing for a higher press on the opposition.
Room to Grow
Another point, although a little more subjective, is that United arguably have more room for growth than any of their Premier League rivals. Despite finishing second last season, there was a sense that the team could be better – that there was more to come from players like Marcus Rashford, Paul Pogba and even the veteran Edinson Cavani.
It’s not that those players were poor, but they often hinted at what they could do in moments. Inconsistency has hampered United for several seasons, but if they can sustain it across a season, then the new season can be a fruitful one for United.
Odds-setters are anything but stupid. United are 4th favorites overall for the Premier League – behind City, Liverpool and Chelsea. While it’s true that United have done well in the Transfer Window, the team still felt a long way behind City last season – and not just in terms of points in the table.
United still have problems with balance, and questions are raised over whether Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes can play in the same starting eleven. The former’s potential departure (another big rumor) might be a blessing in disguise. Jadon Sancho might solve some of that imbalance, but United fans will be hoping that boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a plan to make his side feel a bit more coherent.
But the point remains that United feel like a work in progress, much more so than City, Liverpool and, perhaps, Chelsea. Those 8/1 odds might tempt some punters, but the sportsbooks don’t tend to work on ifs and buts. There are many things that need to go right for United, and it’s not clear whether they are solvable by tactics alone.
Still, should United get off to a good start, and Sancho and Varane gel quickly, you could easily see those odds tumble. If United do go on a charge and win a 21st Premier League title, it could feel like one of those “obvious in hindsight” moments that plague us all in sports betting.