It was the stuff of champions. A fine example of the attitude and desire that separates winners from those happy enough with automatically qualifying for the group stages of the Champions League. It’s the reason why Old Trafford singlehandedly continues to prop up the English Brasso market. Or it was their second undeserved win at West Brom this year.
Whilst the most attacking intent some of their title rivals could muster was a limp slap to the cheek of Joey Barton, United hammered their fist on the table and said ‘we’re taking all three points – crap goalie or no crap goalie.’ Over the course of the whole game there wasn’t anything especially impressive about the performance, but they got the job done, sending out a chilling message to the rest of the league that once again they may be a bit crap, but they’re less crap than everyone else. Here’s how yesterday’s drama unfolded through the drama of live betting.
Kick-off: As expected, the reigning champions are strong favourites to start the defence of their title with a win. Man Utd are 8/13 favourites prior to kick off. Roy Hodgson sides have been a bit of a nuisance to United in the recent past – except for Liverpool of course- so there are plenty of people also backing them – although backing them more with mildly condescending comments like ‘this could be a banana skin for United’ and ‘they won’t make it easy for them’ rather than actual money. As the game begins, the Baggies are 5/1 to claim a surprise win with the draw 13/5.
13 mins: Much like the Community Shield, United start brightly. Unlike the Community Shield, West Brom don’t have the expensive players who can get close enough to kick them, so it’s no surprise when Wayne Rooney picks up the ball with his back to goal and the Baggies defence watch him as he turns and guides the ball beyond the despairing slump to the ground of Ben Foster. West Brom may as well go home now as they’re 13/1 to win the match, United are 1/7 and the draw is 5/1.
35 mins: Man Utd continue to pressurize and waste a couple of good chances to extend their lead. Ben Foster causes panic in his defence by regularly thinking he can catch the ball at corners when it is patently not the case. Oh English keepers, eh? Why can’t they be more reliable like their Spanish counterparts?
37 mins: West Brom have provided the huff and puff to merit the patronising praise that’s regularly thrown their way, but not posed much of an attacking threat. That is until Baggies debutant, Shane Long gets the ball, cuts into the penalty area and cunningly rolls a shot that almost looks too easy to save at the goal. David De Gea, realising it’s almost too easy to save, takes a moment to fix his hair, send another dull tweet and think what he’ll have for dinner this evening before eventually diving, at which point it’s too late and West Brom have equalised. The Baggies are kind of back in it, but most people are still expecting a United win or a draw. WBA 9/2 Draw 7/4 MU 8/11
65 mins: As the second half goes on, both teams are playing some attractive football, but not carving out much in the way of chances. For the first time in the game, the draw is now the most likely outcome, even though virtually everyone who’s been watching football for the last 20 years knows that United will score a late winner.
81 mins: And there it is. Ashley Young takes cunning to a whole new level. He drives towards goals and just when everyone expects him to have a shot or tee up a team-mate, he cleverly calculates the angle of shot required to bounce the ball off one West Brom defender’s leg onto another’s allowing the ball to squirm into the corner of the net. It’s easily the smartest thing he’s ever done, although he did also broadcast his nob deliberate misspelling? over the internet, so there’s not a lot of competition. United are now 1/25 to see the game out, with the draw 8/1 and West Brom 100/1. As United aren’t Arsenal, the book is quickly closed with United at 1/40, the draw at 9/1 and anyone looking to back the Baggies referred to a psychiatric professional.