Louis van Gaal has one job to save his Manchester United career if many of the papers are to be believed. The rumours are that anything but a win against Stoke City on December 26 would signal curtains for the Dutchman who would kick-start the New Year in the queue at the job centre. The feeling around Old Trafford is that Van Gaal’s days are numbered, and the only thing funnier than kids who still believe in Santa, is full-grown adults still believing in the gaffer’s ‘philosophy’.
But the stats say things are looking up for the Red Devils. And the last decade of trends says Stoke should prepare for a stuffing on the 26th.
Manchester United have been flawless over the last decade of Boxing Day fixtures, winning a perfect 10 out of 10. Even David Moyes’ disastrous tenure couldn’t undo this magical trend. Not much is certain in life, apart from death, taxes, Jedward releasing annoying songs, Donald Trump being a complete wagon, and Manchester United winning on Boxing Day. Apparently.
In comparison Stoke have had less joy over the last 10 years of Boxing Day fixtures – including some clashes in the lower tiers. The Potters have won just three of their 10 and lost 1-0 at home to Manchester United on December 26 seven years ago. Carlos Tevez got the winner on that occasion, seven minutes from time.
So can LVG muster a win away to Stoke to save his job, and continue United’s Boxing Day dominance? Back-to-back defeats to Bournemouth and Norwich followed disappointing draws against Leicester and West Ham, and the Red Devils have now won just two of their last eight league games. A ratio that would even have Tim Sherwood wincing.
Stoke on the other hand have plenty of reasons to be confident on home soil, having already beaten Chelsea and Manchester City at the Brittania this season. However Mark Hughes hasn’t got the most promising record against the club he used to play for, winning just three of 20 games as a manager against Manchester United. If he was to hand Louis van Gaal three points in this clash it would be better than any present the man in red could deliver LVG this Christmas.
So what about a Boxing Day punt? Well anybody who has had the misfortune of witnessing this Manchester United side play this season won’t be expecting goals. And it’s the same for Stoke – in 76 per cent of their matches this year there have been under 2.5 goals so that’s well worth a bet to start us off at . Throw into the mix that both teams have scored in just 29 per cent of Stoke’s games, and just 41 per cent of United’s games, and the ‘No’ on both teams to score at is another odds-on shot worth considering.
So if Manchester United are to continue their run of wins after Christmas, as well as save LVG’s job, it isn’t going to be by much. The 1-0 United win at looks the most likely scoreline with Stoke failing to score in seven of their 17 matches this season – only Swansea have failed to find the net in more games. Plus, while Manchester United have posed as much threat up top as a ball of fluff with googly eyes, defensively they have been solid keeping nine clean sheets this campaign.
A 1-0 win would possibly keep Louis van Gaal in a job until the New Year, while more importantly it could kick-start a perfect Boxing Day for punters at .