Weblog: The football punter

Solskjaer's United start should be lively affair

BT Sport 1, 5.30pm Saturday

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will hope the away dugout at the Cardiff City Stadium brings him more good fortune than the home one ever did, as the Norwegian rounds off another bonkers week at Manchester United with a return to a former crime scene.

The United caretaker boss’s previous sojourn in Cardiff was when he masterminded their relegation from the Premier League in 2014, and you can be sure that Bluebirds fans won’t have forgotten it.

Just days after succeeding the unlamented Jose Mourinho, United’s Champions League-winning hero will be given an uproarious welcome by the travelling supporters and at odds as short as 4-7 punters expect a winning start from the Red Devils’ new temporary chief.

Once upon a time this sort of fixture would have been filed under A for away banker but there is nothing about United at the moment that merits such unfettered optimism.

Yes, Mourinho has gone but was he alone the problem? It’ll take more than a trip to Cardiff to find that out and it may be worth overlooking the ‘bounce’ factor that always seems to be lazily applied to new gaffers. After all, it didn’t do Southampton's Ralph Hasenhuttl much good at this very venue two weeks ago.

Neil Warnock, the ultimate panto villain, will absolutely love this challenge, although Cardiff may not be good enough to win it. Their record against the big six this season is played five, lost five, with 17 goals conceded.

Then again, should we count United as a genuine member of the big six? Cardiff have beaten Wolves who, in league table terms, are closer to Manchester United than any of the top teams.

Indeed, Cardiff’s record on their own patch is decent. They’ve won four of their last five in front of their own supporters.

Ignoring the clubs' reputations, Cardiff could arguably be a bit of value and they’ll certainly give their guests a game.

What they boast is a strong midfield three who aren’t the prettiest in terms of creativity but whose workrate is second to none. Paul Pogba, presumably recalled, will have to do well to run the show.

There should be goals in this game. Over 2.5 is an odds-on shot so squeeze a little more value out of the bet by adding both teams to score into the mix.

Solskjaer has said that he’s going to let the dogs off the leash although admittedly it’s easier to say than do.

Cries of ‘attack, attack, attack’ from the Stretford End went unheeded by Mourinho but Solskjaer, who will whistle the tune he’s told to by those above him, will surely be instructed to be more adventurous. He was at Molde in Norway where he enjoyed success although that hardly compares to this endeavour.

There are an average of three goals per game in Cardiff’s home matches and their players will certainly enjoy going toe to toe with a United defence who haven't kept a clean sheet in any of their last eight away games.

United's forwards boast all the potency going if handled properly and even under the moribund Mourinho their nine away league games have produced 33 goals this term.

Both teams to score & over 2.5 goals

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Match in Focus

15:00 Sa 25May SKY

Newport Co v Tranmere

Home WinDrawAway Win
Key stats
  • Newport are unbeaten in 12 matches.
Expert verdict
Michael Flynn’s Newport headed into the playoffs as the fourth tier’s form side, securing seventh spot by finishing the season ten games unbeaten. Tranmere will know all too well about County’s disciplined defensive, having failed to score in both league meetings with them and, even with James Norwood leading the line, they look vulnerable.