While the Champions League final could yet be between Liverpool and Tottenham, Sunday’s clash between Manchester United and Chelsea is the last scheduled match between two of England’s big six clubs in 2018/19.
For both of these teams, it’s just as well. United have only picked up one league victory against a top six side this season, thanks to their smash and grab win at Wembley. Chelsea might have collected three wins at the Bridge, but on their travels they’ve been a rubbish bin on fire: four defeats out of four, with one goal scored and 13 conceded.
Add on last season, and it’s six losses in a row and no win in eight.
With a record like that, United must be in poor form for the prices to be so close. The home side are 8/5 to win here, with the Blues available at 13/8 and the draw 12/5.
And indeed the Red Devils are in wretched form. Wednesday night’s defeat to Man City made it seven losses in their last nine matches in all competitions – the first time that unwanted stat has surfaced since 1962. They’ve only scored twice against a top six side at Old Trafford this season, and they were both against Arsenal’s defence, so barely count.
Ole’s at the wheel, but unfortunately he’s driving like the guy from the end of the original Italian Job.
Chelsea haven’t won at Old Trafford since May 2013, and even then United had already wrapped up the title. So it’s nine years since the Blues won a meeting in Manchester which mattered to both sides, and I think the home team will extend that run here.
Best bet: Manchester United to win at 8/5
This has not been a high-scoring fixture traditionally. The meeting last season ended in a 2-1 home win, in a relatively rare example of a big six clash where the team which scored first lost the match.
However, none of the five meetings in Manchester prior to that saw more than two goals in total, with a pair of 0-0’s in there, and both teams scored in only one of the games. United’s porous defence makes a goal fest a distinct possibility though. They have already conceded 50 league goals this season, and are comfortably top of the Premier League for paying out on over 2.5 goals.
But Chelsea will be happy with a point and United haven’t scored an open play goal for over 500 minutes, so it doesn’t feel like there’ll be much entertainment here.
Best bet: Under 2.5 goals at 17/20.
Goal scorer bets are not easy to pick, as neither team has a scorer in great form. Anthony Martial is the top goal-getter for either side in the top six mini league this season with four, including both United goals in the reverse fixture.
However, he has scored just once in his last 10 appearances, and was recently reduced to diving in the Red Devils’ defeat at Everton. Is there anything more embarrassing than that? Losing 4-0 to Everton?
The sad truth for United is they have scored just one non-penalty goal across their six matches in April, and that was bagged by Scott McTominay. His odds of 10/1 to score suggests nobody is expecting him to net here.
Aside from Pogba’s penalties against West Ham, in the last five matches the only United player to have a clear-cut chance is Marcus Rashford, and he only had one. But he should get chances on Sunday, so he seems as good a choice as anyone in red.
Best bet: Marcus Rashford to score first at 11/2.
For Chelsea, the picture is no rosier. Gonzalo Higuain has scored four goals since joining, but they’ve all been against teams currently in the bottom six. There’s no harm in having a flat-track bully, but United aren’t quite that bad yet. Even so, the Argentine’s record of one shot on target from five appearances against teams from the top six doesn’t inspire much confidence.
Chelsea have had nine different scorers in the big six mini league in 2018/19, but only Pedro has scored more than once. He also bagged a brace against the mighty Slavia Prague recently, and with Callum Hudson-Odoi out, he might start this one. He seems as good a choice as anyone in blue.
Best bet: Pedro to score at 11/4.
*Prices correct at time of publishing but can fluctuate