With little riding on Southampton v Manchester United, we're chancing a 20/1 shot in Wednesday's Premier League game.
Recommended bets: Wednesday Premier League
If ever there were a game that needed livening up with a financial interest, it’s this one.
Southampton will finish somewhere between eighth and 11th in the Premier League after a slightly-disappointing but far-from-disastrous first season under Claude Puel, while United’s eggs are now all in the Europa League basket. They can no longer make the top four and will finish fifth or sixth, most likely the latter where they have resided for much of the campaign.
With their Europa final now just seven days away – and another largely meaningless game to squeeze in on Sunday – United’s team news will have a big bearing on this one.
Boss Jose Mourinho has stated he’ll be resting certain individuals for certain games, calling it a “step-by-step” process, with his suggestion being that wholesale changes for one of the two remaining matches won’t be forthcoming.
We already know Daley Blind will be sitting this one out and others will surely do so too, although you’d imagine this will be a stronger United XI than the one which is fielded against Crystal Palace at the weekend.
If that is indeed the case when the line-ups are announced, United will look decent value at around the 7/4 mark.
They’ve won 10 of their 18 away games in the league thus far and, to be fair, have coped fairly well with the spate of injuries they’ve had throughout the season, in particular in defence where they have remained a tight unit.
Their opponents have struggled badly against the league’s best sides and have failed to win any of their nine games thus far against members of the Big Six.
At St Mary’s they have taken one point from a possible 15, scoring just one goal and conceding 11. In recent weeks, they’ve lost 3-0 at home to Manchester City and, only last week, 2-0 to Arsenal. Chelsea and Spurs also left with two - and three-goal winning margins respectively.
There are currently 20 points between these sides in the table and that says much.
I don’t have the advantage of knowing United’s team when writing this preview but based on what is known, 7/4 about an away win is worthy of consideration.
However, it’s not a bet I can put up right now and I’ll instead go for something more speculative, particularly after watching Chelsea’s 4-3 win over Watford in what was another game which meant very little. It featured plenty of team changes, basically saw a break from the norm and resulted in something few would have predicted.
Looking through the goalscorer markets, United youngster Scott McTominay looks a tempting price at 20/1 to score the first goal – if indeed he gets the nod to start, which is certainly possible.
Having made his Premier League debut as a substitute at Spurs on Sunday, McTominay was left out of the under-23s game on Monday and looks set to feature in some form at St Mary’s.
Admittedly his goalscoring record in that under-23 team isn’t particularly eyecatching – three goals in 17 appearances from largely a midfield role – but he is on offer at 20/1 in the first scorer market which is big for any midfielder who likes to get forward.
At 6ft 4in, the Scottish starlet can also offer a real threat from set-plays – an area where Southampton have been weak of late.
They conceded from a corner during Saturday’s win at Middlesbrough (their first success in six games) and did likewise in the recent 4-2 loss at Chelsea.
Overall they have conceded 17 set-piece goals this season – the third worst record in the top flight – with Spurs and Man City other members of the Big Six to have netted from corners at St Mary’s this term.
The price just looks too big, especially when you consider this United team is hardly packed with goalscorers.
Even if McTominay doesn’t start, there’s still a chance he could net the first off the bench with four of Southampton’s last five at home having reached half-time goalless. Incidentally, that 0-0 HT bet rewarded colleague Nick Hext in last week’s Southampton v Arsenal clash and this week will tempt more in at 15/8.
If he’s not on the field when the first goal is scored, it’s money back so a small slice of the 20/1 (bet365, NetBet, 10Bet) in the first scorer market looks worth a go.
Prediction: Southampton 0-2 Manchester United
o Southampton are winless in their last five home Premier League games against the Red Devils, losing four of those by a single goal margin (D1).
o Manchester United’s last away defeat in the Premier League to Southampton came in August 2003, with James Beattie scoring the only goal of the game.
o Four of Manchester United’s five goals against Southampton in all competitions this season have been scored by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has been ruled out for the season.
o Manolo Gabbadiani netted both of Southampton’s goals in the EFL Cup Final in February, which they lost 3-2.
o Manchester United have come from behind to beat Southampton on eight occasions in the Premier League (including in this exact fixture last season) – the most any team has done so against another in the competition’s history.
o Southampton have failed to score in their last three home league games, with their goalless drought at St Mary’s currently standing at four hours 35 minutes. They’ve never gone four top-flight home games without a goal.
o Jose Mourinho’s side have won more points away from home this season in the Premier League (34 in 18 games) than they have at Old Trafford (31 in 18 games).
o Manchester United (17 wins) need to win both of their remaining Premier League games in 2016/17 to avoid it being their lowest tally of wins in a single Premier League season. They won 19 in both 2013-14 and 2015-16.
Posted at 1345 BST on 16/05/17.