Manchester United

Mourinho-less United to Restore the Faith in Cardiff

Cardiff City v Manchester Utd – 22nd December – 17:30 GMT

After this week’s sacking of Jose Mourinho, it was something of a no-brainer to select this weekend’s clash at the Cardiff City Stadium as the main feature for this week’s preview/tips piece.

While the timing of Mourinho’s sacking may have been a little surprising, the fact he was finally shown the Old Trafford exit door was less so, following a season in which he has, week-by-week, cut an increasingly miserable and desolate figure.

A summer transfer market that failed to deliver the top-class centre back and right winger Mourinho had demanded had already set the tone, and since then it’s been series of high-profile fall-outs with players, media and colleagues. The end game may have been played out in front of the world’s media, but its ultimate conclusion was inevitable.

After delivering United’s highest Premier League finish since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement – they ended last season as runners-up to Man City – United failed to build and instead went backwards; certainly in comparison to the likes of City, Liverpool and Spurs, who are all thriving under the tutelage of young, modern-thinking managers. By comparison, Mourinho appeared a dinosaur and with United share price also plummeting as a result, the Glaziers acted.

TOP TIP! – Man Utd to win 3-1 @ +1200   / Pogba as anytime goalscorer @ +240

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The red and white reins have now been handed to Ole Gunnar Solkjaer, supported by Mike Phelan, for the remainder of the season, with a view to a long-term appointment being made at the end of the season. United aim to have the pair in the technical area at the weekend.

All of which adds up to a fascinating evening in Cardiff, as Neil Warnock’s men look to profit from the uncertainty in the United camp and add to their current haul of 14 points. The big question though will be can United now thrive minus the supposed shackles placed on them by Mourinho?

If they are allowed to play with the freedom denied them by Mourinho’s rigid, almost suffocating style, with the quality attacking players in their ranks they actually have the potential to blow teams away. Warnock will be hoping the impact isn’t instant and his Bluebirds are not on the receiving end.

What is certain is that those players who had fallen foul of Mourinho, like most notably Paul Pogba, will feel the benefit from some fresh voices on their Carrington Training Ground, and will be out to make a statement.

We’d, therefore, recommend giving some serious though to Paul Pogba as ‘anytime goalscorer’ on Saturday, as football often throws up such quirks, especially at +240   with 888sport.

Also, partly because of the drama that’s unfolded at Old Trafford this week, we think it will be something of a relief for the United players to get back to matters on the pitch and that, together with the freedom of being Mourinho-less, will tip the balance heavily in their favour.

Cardiff will be game and will battle – Warnock teams always do – but we’re not sure they’ll have enough quality to overcome a refreshed United, although we do fancy them to get a goal against the Reds’ uncertain defence. So, on the basis of their shackles being off, we see United having too much and winning 3-1 +1200   with 188bet.

Liverpool

Wolves v Liverpool – 21st December – 20:00 GMT

TOP TIP! – Wolves & Liverpool to draw 1-1 @ +800   / Jiminez anytime goalscorer @ +300

The league leaders appear unstoppable right now and to be above a Man City side who look to be taking the modern game to another level, is some achievement. Last Sunday’s home clash with fierce rivals Man Utd was seen as a big test, but Mourinho’s final United XI were swotted aside with consummate ease, just as Liverpool have done with just about every Premier League opponent so far.

All of which adds up to a particularly tricky looking afternoon for Wolves, although they will look to their home win over Chelsea in early December as inspiration ahead of this clash. The Old Gold, despite going a goal down that afternoon, rallied brilliantly against the Blues and inflicted on Maurizio Sarri only his second Premier League defeat.

Having taken down one of the big boys, Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo will be looking for more of the same from his team, and in a single post-Chelsea quote gave a massive clue as to how: “The only way to play these teams is you have to run more than them and when you have your chances take them…”

So, it goes without saying that Wolves will play with energy aplenty on Friday night, but the question remains if they have enough quality to hurt the Reds? As it happens, we think they do because this Wolves team are not your everyday ‘plucky’ promotees – they are crammed full of quality – and so we can see them having enough to earn a point.

It’s hard to envisage them keeping a clean sheet though, but we can see a tight but well-deserved 1-1 +800   with Bet365. Also, consider Wolves’ Raul Jimenez as anytime goalscorer at +300   with Bet365.

Chelsea v Leicester

Chelsea v Leicester – 22nd December – 15:00 GMT

TOP TIP! – Chelsea to win 2-1 @ +800   / Opening goal between minutes 0-15 @ +172

Two defeats in their last five games (including the defeat at Molineux) have seen the Blues drop off the pace at the top of the Premier League, so they can ill afford to drop any more points against the Foxes.

For Leicester it is one win in their last five but, despite some reported grumblings from Foxes fans around Claude Puel’s tactics and team selections, they remain comfortably mid-table and look highly unlikely to be dragged into a relegation battle.

While both teams were in midweek Carabao Cup quarter-final action, as both fielded weakened sides there is likely to be little impact at the weekend, and so we envisage a difficult afternoon for the Foxes. They’re tough to score against though and have conceded just 21 goals in their 17 league games, so this won’t be a goal-fest.

The Blues meanwhile are cruising along at over two goals per game and, in truth, we can’t find too many good reasons to justify going for an away win. Equally, Leicester won’t roll over and so a narrow 2-1 for Chelsea at +800   with BetVictor looks well worth a bet.

Also, we fancy Chelsea – in their desire to not let City and Liverpool edge further ahead – to come flying out of the traps and so there are worse bets out there than the opening goal coming between minutes 0-15 +172   with 188bet.

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