22nd Feb 2012 | Football

Man Utd v Ajax Tip

De Gea: Mixed form

The English champions did the hard graft in Holland so they could get the cigars out this week.

Manchester United are nothing longer than 4/11 (Ladbrokes) to win the second leg of their last 32 clash in the Europa League on Thursday. Those might be appropriate odds if the tie was hanging in the balance and the Red Devils had no upcoming Premier League commitments. But they lead Ajax 2-0 as they head to Old Trafford, and a tricky trip to high-flying Norwich awaits at the weekend. It’s therefore inconceivable that Ferguson will field anything like his strongest side, and we must adjust our betting expectations accordingly.

I can’t see past the value of 4/1 (Boylesports) on the return leg ending as a draw. That would do the Manchester United manager just fine as it would see his team through with a two-goal cushion. Let’s not forget that the Dutch club have a proud tradition and they will want to put on a worthy performance even if they can’t turn things round.

It’s not that the English champions aren’t clearly the better side - this site predicted a United away win by a two-goal margin last week. But the relative weakness of the ‘reserves’ at Old Trafford has already been demonstrated this season. The shock 3-2 defeat to Blackburn on New Year’s Eve came when several big names were missing. The 2-1 Carling Cup defeat to Crystal Palace - again at Old Trafford - suggested there was an alarming lack of depth in the current United squad.

Ferguson will be quite clear that another night like those two will be wholly unacceptable. So defeat should be avoided, but a share of the spoils would hardly be the end of the world, or even the greatest surprise. At a best price of 4/1 (Boylesports), the odds suggest otherwise.

1pt Draw 4/1 with Boylesports
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Odds correct at time of publishing: 14:21 22nd Feb, 2012 but subject to change

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