By Aidan Elder | Chief sports writer
It’s a rarity in modern football – a game so big, it doesn’t need to be flogged to within an inch of its life with melodramatic Sky Sports ads. Jose Mourinho says “it looks like the final” and for once it doesn’t feel like the gratuitous inflating of his own ego. It’s a massive game and – like that time we went to the East 17 reunion concert – we’ve been getting giddy long before they come out to a raucous rendition of It’s Alright kick off. And that’s really saying something considering we’re facing an evening of watching Adrian Chiles, Garth Southgate and Roy Keane trying desperately hard to resist the urge to rip both of their heads off.
Despite having home advantage and the suspiciously favourable refereeing decisions that go along with that, Real Madrid are the team Paddy Power punters are narrowly favouring. The soon to be deposed La Liga champions have attracted 53 per cent of all match bets, with Manchester United lagging behind on 44 per cent. It’s not a huge disparity, but clearly there’s a large chunk of people who think the Special One is capable of enhancing his specialness with another win at Old Trafford and his seventh career success over Ferguson.
No punters are backing a draw
Nobody is banking on the draw, despite the fact that the variations of that result will suit both teams. If United can somehow keep Ronaldo and co quiet to keep the sheets clean, they’ll progress to the last eight whilst a stalemate featuring four or more goals will be enough to have the Special One ruin another suit thanks to an unnecessary knee-slide. A paltry 3 per cent of all match bets have gone on the draw, which is interesting due to the fact that an sizeable 47 per cent the 15 meetings of Jose and Sir Fergie teams have ended in a draw.
The First Goalscorer betting is as predictable as Fergie giving out about whatever the allotted amount of stoppage time is. Robin van Persie is the top selection among Paddy Power customers with about 35 per cent of all the votes. Cristiano Ronaldo isn’t too far behind with around 25 per cent and Wayne Rooney’s flat-track bullying against an already demoralised and deflated Norwich at the weekend has seen a spike in his popularity with nearly 20 per cent of punters plumping for him. Showing that people never get sick of a fairytale, Ryan Giggs has been backed to score first on what’s likely to be the 1,000th game of his career.