As Manchester United's season continues to falter, Alan Dudman looks ahead to Monday night's FA Cup 5th round clash between the Reds and Shrewsbury Town, a game the Premier League team cannot afford to lose...
"As outlined, the hosts are designed to play on the break and soak up possession, whilst United tend to go sideways more often than forward. Fellow League One outfit Sheffield United restricted attacks at Old Trafford, and we are banking on the hosts doing it for 45 minutes here."
Shrewsbury Town v Manchester United
FA Cup 5th Round
Monday 22 February, 19:45
Live on BT Sport 2
Dire, appalling, and a 'new low' were mentioned after Manchester United's 2-1 defeat at FC Midtjylland on Thursday. The Manchester Evening News called for manager Louis van Gaal to be sacked in Friday's paper, something that would never have happened under Sir Alex Ferguson. Granted, a player like Marouane Fellaini would never have been allowed anywhere near the great team of the 1990s either.
Results have not been good, but some of the recent performances have been downright abysmal. And the Reds are now facing the possibility of a third consecutive defeat in all competitions this coming Monday. Van Gaal's press conference could be interesting ahead of the trip to Shrewsbury, and with radio talk shows dominated by fans (and in some cases - the presenter) calling for the Dutchman's head, United will need to act in terms of backing their boss or not.
However, looking at the odds, there is every chance that the severe backlash of Thursday's tame effort in Denmark could push United's price out to 1.501/2 come Monday evening. Considering Chesterfield are 1.608/13 this weekend to beat Crewe, they could be excellent odds. According to Opta; the Reds have lost just one of their last 45 FA Cup games against lower league opposition.
Van Gaal's side are second favourites for the FA Cup at 9/2 on the Sportsbook, and the famous old trophy might be the only option left for the Dutchman.
Manager Micky Mellon dreamed of landing 'one of the big boys' at home following their 0-1 victory against Cardiff in the third round, and he now has his wish at the Greenhous Meadow. For the most part, Salop's FA Cup encounters have been turgid affairs - in particular the previously mentioned game. However, their 3-2 come-from-behind success against Sheffield Wednesday to secure their place in the fifth round for the first time in 25 years was a complete bolt out of the blue. Seven minutes of injury time helped (the spectre of Fergie is everywhere in this column).
Town are not a particularly good League One side and are 2.3611/8 for relegation. Their form is erratic, and meaningless as a betting medium. They were hammered 7-1 by Chesterfield before their 1-0 FA Cup win at Cardiff. Whilst last Saturday's victory against Blackpool came after a wretched run of just one league win in six matches.
Their formation ranges from a 3-4-2-1 to a similar 3-5-2, but both are designed for Town to play on the break.
The news that Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney has been ruled out for six weeks with a knee injury is a blow for backers of the 'to score' market.
The England forward has netted in all of the club's previous four FA Cup games (although half have been from the penalty spot). Rooney has undoubtedly been their leader, of which there aren't many in Louis van Gaal's possession-based team.
If you like taking a price of around 1.402/5, the visitors should be far too good. Although their 1-0 FA Cup third round win against Sheffield United was an absolutely appalling game - in which they registered just two shots on target, the Red Devils did enough. So we could be in for another grinding performance on Monday.
Shrewsbury's home record doesn't read particularly well; they have lost nine times at the Greenhous this season, and have succumbed to the likes of Oldham, Crewe and Barnsley.
If you are looking to trade on Town in-running, it's worth remembering that in these mismatches, the bigger price slides out quickly. It's unlikely that Shrewsbury will hit an early goal, therefore you can wait for a bigger figure in-play. But laying at 9.08/1 to back at a higher set of numbers is not my thing.
Under 2.5 Goals
I consider Shrewsbury's 3-2 fourth round success as a bit of a blip in terms of goals. Their formation is designed to play on the break. Their defending in the earlier round against Cardiff was superb however, as the Bluebirds recorded 26 shots - a third round high - but Town blocked everything. They had only 36 per cent of the ball in Wales, and I see something similar here to help with the 'under 2.5 bet'.
Opta state that the League One side have kept five clean sheets in their last seven FA Cup games - although none would have boasted the threat of Monday's opponents.
Manchester United have scored 19 goals in their last eight outings against third-tier opposition in the FA Cup - at an average of 2.4 goals per game.
There's a chance to back the 'under 2.5' at around 2.206/5, which I think should represent a decent trade in-play. Considering the 0-0 half-time score is available to back at 2.9015/8, we could have ourselves a good price.
Manchester United have only been eliminated once in the fifth round in their previous nine games, and I see them making their way to the next phase. However, if you are not a taker of match odds at 1.402/5, the HT/FT market makes plenty of appeal.
As outlined, the hosts are designed to play on the break and soak up possession, whilst United tend to go sideways more often than forward. Fellow League One outfit Sheffield United restricted attacks at Old Trafford, and we are banking on Shrewsbury doing it for 45 minutes here.
As much as I admire Reds' striker Anthony Martial, I hope he is rested for Monday. He was fairly anonymous in a forward role against FC Midtjylland, but he was the main source of danger against Derby County in the fourth round when playing in this season's familiar position on the left. However, van Gaal may give another start to Memphis Depay, who will fill the wide role, with perhaps Will Keane given the nod to start up front?
The Reds have 13 players out and this could be hard work, but a tight first 45 minutes can set up a bet at 3.953/1 in this market.
Back Draw/Man Utd HT/FT @ 3.953/1
Back under 2.5 goals @ 2.1011/10