A flurry of bets has been placed on Man Utd overhauling a 12-point deficit and beating Man City to the Premiership title after they signed Alexis Sanchez. The Chilean superstar was in the final months of his Arsenal contract and moved to Old Trafford in a swap deal with Henrikh Mkhitaryan going the other way. Punters think Sanchez is just the man to galvanise Man Utd and improve their fortunes this season, and they have been lumping on the Red Devils after the transfer.
“He’s a match winner, one of them that can turn a drab 0-0 into a 1-0 win,” said former Man Utd defender Danny Higgingbotham after the announcement.
That is exactly what Jose Mourinho’s men need. They often dominate games but end up drawing because they lack that piece of individual magic in the final third that unlocks stubborn defences. Sanchez got Arsenal out of trouble time and time again during his three-and-a-half years at The Emirates, and he can do the same for Man Utd going forward.
City have lost just once all season and remain heavy favourites to wrap up a title win that has looked inevitable for months. They hijacked Man Utd’s news of the Sanchez deal by announcing they had tied down Kevin De Bruyne to a long-term deal. The Belgian maestro looks a shoo-in for Player of the Year this season, and he has driven Pep Guardiola’s team to a commanding lead. With 42 points left to play for, they are 12 points ahead. They are 1/200 with some bookmakers and best priced at 1/50 with William Hill, while second-favourites Man Utd are 50/1 with Betway, 10Bet and various others.
It would take a meltdown from City and a phenomenal effort from Utd to change the course of the title now, but Man Utd have previous in this field. In 1996 they overhauled Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle Utd, who were 12 points clear, to claim an unlikely title win. They have twice overhauled Arsenal, who held massively leads only to squander them at the death. In turn they were once overhauled by Arsenal: Man Utd held a 12-point lead in 1998 but Arsene Wenger’s men reined them in and clinched the title. So late season meltdowns do happen and Man City have looked less invincible in recent weeks.
They have scraped several victories when they did not play well, and Liverpool laid down a blueprint for beating them when they claimed a 4-3 victory recently. The Reds pressed City’s defenders relentlessly, high up the pitch, won possession and punished them. City will be distracted by cup competitions and it is not unthinkable that they could slip up.
Whether Sanchez alone is enough to transform a Utd side that has won five games fewer than City this season remains to be seen. A better idea might be backing Utd to make a splash in the FA Cup or Champions League. The Red Devils have a ludicrously easy fourth round tie away at Yeovil Town and are all but certain to make it through to the next round. Mourinho is a truly great cup manager as his attention to detail means his teams can beat anyone on their day. They won the Europa League and EFL Cup last year, and they are 9/2 to win the FA Cup with Betway.
The Champions League is another intriguing one. Sanchez is not cup tied for the competition so he can go straight into the squad, and Utd’s attack now looks terrifying. Sanchez, Romelu Lukaku, Anothony Martial, Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba can all combine to tear teams apart. Utd should make the quarter-finals with ease as they are up against an underwhelming Sevilla side in the last 16, and then anything can happen. Mourinho has won the competition with Porto and Inter, teams with fewer stars than Man Utd currently possess, so they look a decent option at 17/1 with Unibet and 888 Sport.