Mike Norman previews Sunday afternoon's live game in the Premier League and believes star-studded Manchester United will kick start their season with a straightforward win over newly-promoted QPR...
"I can see Van Gaal's men causing all sorts of problems to Premier League defences in the coming weeks while conceding one or two themselves. Over 2.5 Goals is available to back at 1.748/11 at the time of writing and I believe that's a must bet."
Manchester United v QPR
Live on Sky Sports 1
Following the appointment of Louis van Gaal, the signings of Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera, and the Red Devils' excellent form in pre-season, United were backed down to a low of 5.79/2 to win this season's Premier League title, and orderly queues were being formed at the doors of any bookmaker offering decent odds about them winning their first six games of the season.
Swansea, Sunderland, and Burnley looked to be relatively straightforward tasks; take nine points, strengthen in the transfer window, and then look forward to QPR, Leicester, and West Ham. Except such best-laid plans rarely work out in football.
A hamstring injury to Shaw and niggling setbacks for Herrera meant United effectively started the season with the same squad that so disappointed last term. A home loss to Swansea was a shock to the system, and draws at the Stadium of Light and Turf Moor were not exactly what the doctor ordered.
But at the end of every dark tunnel a light usually emerges, and you sense that with the business United did towards the end of the transfer window in addition to the two week international break then the Old Trafford outfit are closer to it.
Shaw is back in training, Herrera is available for selection, British record signing Angel di Maria will undoubtedly be better for his promising debut, and the signings of Marcos Rojo, Daley Blind, and prolifc goalscorer Radamel Falcao all look excellent on paper.
Add in Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, David de Gea and Juan Mata, and United's starting XI has the potential to be one of the most exciting in Europe. True, collectively they may not be seen to their best for a few months yet, but in terms of picking up Premier League points Manchester United's season starts right now.
The Hoops were slightly disappointing in the second half of last season, winning just eight (drawing four and losing the other eight) of their final 20 regulation Championship fixtures. They were always comfortably inside the play-off places however and they lifted themselves to secure promotion back to the Premier League with a 1-0 victory over Derby at Wembley.
Harry Redknapp's men have endured a tough start to this campaign, losing three straight games without scoring before a narrow victory over Sunderland gave them their first three points of the season.
Loic Remy left for Chelsea on the eve of Transfer Deadline Day, but the summer signings of defensive duo Steven Caulker and Rio Ferdinand, plus the additions of midfielders Leroy Fer, Jordan Mutch, and Brazilian international Sandro have added strength to a squad surely capable of avoiding relegation this time around.
Also arriving at Loftus Road - for a season at least - are loan signings and Chile international team-mates Eduardo Vargas and Mauricio Isla. The former has now received his work permit and could go straight into QPR's attack when they visit Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon.
You won't get rich backing United to win the game but odds of around 1.330/100 could be perceived as quite generous. In recent seasons the Red Devils have been no bigger than 1.21/5 at home to newly-promoted clubs, but it's understandable that United's poor home form in the last 12 months is now starting to reflect in their Match Odds markets.
I know a lot of punters will be tempted to keep on laying Van Gaal's men until they show some form and it's impossible to argue with anyone who has such reasoning. The Hoops can be backed at 14.013/1 for the win, while the Draw can be backed at 6.25/1.
But I'm all over United to win this game.
It's impossible to know how LVG will line-up; will he be even tempted to switch from 3-5-2 given that both Chris Smalling and Phil Jones could miss this clash due to various muscle injuries? But we can certainly expect to see both Rojo and Blind making their debuts, plus the likes of Di Maria and Mata in midfield with possibly Rooney playing just behind RVP and Falcao in a mouthwatering attack.
But however the Dutch manager sets his team up I fully expect them to be too strong for a QPR side that were thumped 4-0 at Spurs the last time they were away from home in the league and who already have the worst goal difference in the top flight.
Over/Under 2.5 Goals
For the next few weeks at least I envisage 'Overs' in games involving United will be very popular. They look far from solid at the back, not least because of the injuries to some of their key defenders, but in attack - as I've already stated - their front five or six look stunning on paper.
I can see Van Gaal's men causing all sorts of problems to Premier League defences in the coming weeks while conceding one or two themselves. Over 2.5 Goals is available to back at 1.748/11 at the time of writing and I believe that's a must bet.
Over 3.5 Goals also looks very appealing at 2.89/5 as I certainly wouldn't rule out QPR getting on the scoresheet either.
Sidemarket focus - First Goalscorer
Who do you go for in this market? The best advice I can give you is to wait until the line-ups are known. Of course, if you back someone now who doesn't play then you'll get your money returned but if Falcao plays from the start then I'd be very interested in backing him.
The Colombian striker had a tremendous goalscoring record at both Porto and Atletico Madrid, and a goal every two games for Monaco isn't too shabby either. He's the type of player who will be adored at Old Trafford and I wouldn't be surprised at all if he got his United career off to a goalscoring one.
He'll be available to back at around 5.04/1 to score the first goal of the game, but if you fancy LVG's men to win easy then he should give you a good run for your money.
Back Over 3.5 Goals @ 2.89/5 (best bet)
Back Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.748/11
Back Radamel Falcao First Goalscorer @ 5.04/1