Michael Lintorn trusts Man United to build on their most productive eight days of the season with a top-three finish…
Nobody seems to take the statistic that Man United have been the best team in the Premier League for two-thirds of the season – from matchday 11 to 30 – too seriously, but few would deny that they have been the outstanding performers of the last two weekends.
They went into Mother’s Day four points shy of Arsenal and a mere two and three points ahead of Liverpool and Tottenham, their next opponents, in the final Champions League place, offering both the chance to gazump a side who had just whimpered out of the FA Cup at home to the Gunners.
Spurs were gone in 34 minutes at Old Trafford as Marouane Fellaini, Michael Carrick and Wayne Rooney, three of the players who had maintained strong form even as those around them struggled, terrorised them in the opening period.
It was the first time that Louis van Gaal had been able to start Fellaini and Carrick together in the Premier League besides a six-match winning streak between November and December, and it is no coincidence that they have a flawless record in tandem.
The consensus after the Spurs massacre was that the Dutchman had finally found his ideal XI and the perfect shape to maximise their talents: a 4-1-4-1 with Daley Blind and Antonio Valencia at full back, Carrick, Fellaini and Ander Herrera in midfield and Ashley Young and Juan Mata flanking Rooney.
Unsurprisingly, they retained that line-up at Anfield and once again made a sensational start, passing with pace and proving hugely incisive to deservedly lead 1-0 at the break.
Man United then showed the predatory instinct to capitalise quickly on Steven Gerrard’s ridiculous red card early in the second half, giving them some insurance when Liverpool inevitably rallied and got one back and meaning that they could even afford for Rooney to squander a penalty.
As a result of those two enormous victories, they are now five points clear of Liverpool and only one behind Arsenal in third and two shy of champions Man City in second, rendering their odds of 3.052/1 to deliver a podium finish very appealing.
Home figures have been superb all campaign – 12 wins in 14 since an opening-day wobble – and their away form is better now than at any prior stage under van Gaal: ten points from five games.
The Red Devils are still to face five bottom-half clubs who currently have a bit of distance over the relegation zone, which is arguably the dream formula for an end-of-term foe as they are inferior yet less motivated than those in the deepest danger.
The one thing that might deter punters from backing Man United is that they must play the three teams above them, but their record against top-five rivals to date is P5 W3 D1 L1 (the sole defeat coming with ten men), while those fixtures make it easier to gain ground on those ahead of them.
Recommended Bet: Back Man United to finish in the top three @ 3.052/1