Manchester United’s average price to win Premier League matches has dropped dramatically this season. Jake Pearson takes a look at why this has occurred and how to potentially use it to your advantage.
Manchester United have made some big-name signings over the summer, and it can be well-argued that they are a better team this season than they were last, but does their price deserve to have crashed in the significant way that it has?
Last season Manchester United finished second in the Premier League, 12 points behind champions Manchester City but a comfortable five points clear of Liverpool in third, and a further two points ahead of fourth-placed Chelsea.
However, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men were not priced as the second-best team in the division. United’s average opening price in the Premier League last season was 2.15, with Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea all boasting lower average opening prices.
Given the season United had, winning 21 matches, it is perhaps safe to say they were underestimated at times as it is strange to see a Premier League runner-up with an average price of odds-against, but there seems to have been a monumental shift the other way, with layers seemingly vastly overrating the Red Devils this season.
So much so that Manchester United actually boast the shortest average opening price in the Premier League this term, Solskjaer’s men priced up at an average of 1/2 to win in the Premier League. That is much shorter than Manchester City’s average opening price of 8/11, with Liverpool at 4/5, and Chelsea at 10/11.
There are simple explanations for this, the main one being that, while City, Liverpool and Chelsea have all faced each other at least once already this campaign, naturally driving up their average prices, Manchester United are yet to face any of last season’s top-four, West Ham the highest-placed opponent they have met so far.
However, it is also worth digging a little deeper into the betting archives to assess exactly how significantly their price this season differs from their price last season.
United’s opening game of the season was at home to Leeds, a fixture they opened up at a price of 8/15 to win. Last season United were 8/11 to beat Leeds at Old Trafford, which is more than a 7% swing in favour of the Red Devils this term - not a huge amount, but significant nonetheless.
United then travelled to Southampton, a game they were priced up at 8/13 to win, despite being odds-against to win at St Mary’s last season – a bigger than 12% swing – before taking on Wolves at Molineux, a game they were 17/10 to win last season but one that saw them open up at 4/5 this term, a whopping 18.6% swing.
These three games are significant because they preceded the return of Cristiano Ronaldo.
That came at home to Newcastle, in a game United were 1/4 to win, having been 1/3 last season – another 5% shift – before Ronaldo made his second appearance in United’s 2-1 win over West Ham, a game that saw them priced up with a 6.7% higher chance of winning this term than last.
At home to Aston Villa, United were given almost a 15% higher probability of winning this season than they were last, and only when hosting Everton has United’s price come close to representing what they were in the same fixture last season – 1/2 from 8/15. Ronaldo didn't start that game, but that information was unbeknownst to bookmakers beforehand.
All in all, United's price has been short all season, and though Ronaldo is certainly altering perceptions, this goes deeper than bookies slashing the odds on the Red Devils purely on the basis of one player.
Plenty of United fans will argue that given their recruitment this summer – bringing in Ronaldo as well as splashing out £73m on Jadon Sancho – they are entitled to be viewed as a better team, perhaps even an elite one, but the Red Devils have already failed to win on three occasions this season, and the extent of the price shift is not warranted.
Rank Probability Score is a way of assessing how accurate forecasts are, and it is a good way to measure how efficiently each individual team is priced over the course of a season.
Using the opening prices from one of the most efficient bookmakers in the business, all teams were attributed an RPS score for last season – the lower the better – and Manchester United ranked ninth, effectively meaning they were not consistently overestimated by the layers, but nor were they underestimated.
This season they have slipped down to 14th, meaning that only six teams in the Premier League are consistently overestimated more often than Manchester United.
A useful thing to do when assessing prices for a football match is to study the historical prices between the two teams, though only go back as far as is relevant, placing more emphasis on the most recent meetings.
If there is a stark contrast in the difference between prices for an upcoming match between two sides, and the prices when the two sides met last season, then it is safe to assume that either there has been a pricing error, either in this match or in last season’s, or there has been a dramatic shift in the ability difference between the two teams.
On average, Manchester United have been given a 9.5% higher chance of winning this season than they were in corresponding fixtures last season.
The question is whether you think United have improved as a team by that amount.
If the answer is no, then any instance in which the Red Devils are priced up at 9.5% (or more) shorter to win a match this season than they were last season, it is advisable to back against them.
United have already been taken on in this week’s Beat The Market column for this very reason. The Red Devils are even money to beat Leicester when they were 11/8 last term – an 8% swing.
As mentioned, United are yet to play any real big-hitters this season, but that is about to change, with games against the other four of last season's top six (having already played West Ham) coming up before November is out.
If United are continually priced up as the best team in the league, as they currently are being, now is the time to strike and take advantage of what is clearly an oversight.
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