In hindsight, it could appear that Manchester United’s bitter defeat 3-0 to Liverpool at the weekend was exactly what David Moyes’ men needed to turn their season around; last night’s rousing victory over Greek outfit, Olympiakos, at Old Trafford was certainly no fluke.
However, with only nine games remaining of the 2013/14 season, a run that includes nightmare fixtures with Manchester City and Everton, the Reds still have a hill to climb if they hope to claim a spot in Europe, and salvage what has been a frustrating season for the 2012/13 champions.
Despite chasing a two-goal deficit, and struggling at home for much of the season, the Red Devils were always strong favourites with betfair to oust Olympiakos in Manchester, a hat-trick from Robin van Persie and a sterling performance from Spanish custodian, David de Gea, coming as no great surprise to bookmakers.
With their European campaign now secured, the onus now is on United to capitalise on their success against mid-table West Ham on Saturday, a fixture that Betfair pundits believe could be something of a ‘banana skin’ to the rejuvenated Reds.
The Hammers have not lost at Upton Park in three and, while United have one of the best away records in the Premier League, the two sides could cancel each other out on the day, with a 1-1 draw or a narrow victory for the former champions standing at the top of the odds tables on the Betfair website.
Despite their seemingly safe position in 12th, West Ham are already fighting relegation (12/1 with Betfair). The club could have just a three-point buffer between themselves and the drop zone by the time the whistle blows on Saturday, and will be determined to avoid a repeat of December’s 3-1 defeat to United, which, again, left them perilously close to that dreaded dotted line.
A victory over the Londoners would take United within two points of fifth place, and offer a much-needed boost ahead of their crucial clash with local rivals, and one of the favourites for the title with Betfair, Manchester City, on Tuesday.
Moyes just needs to hope that Robin van Persie’s knee injury, picked up last night in a tussle with Olympiakos’ Giannis Maniatis, is as benign as the initial diagnosis seemed to suggest.