As mentioned here a few weeks ago, Christmas is not often a time enjoyed by football managers. Their squads are pushed and pulled in all directions by playing numerous games in just a few days for the entertainment of the huddled masses.
Both Manchester United and City have not escaped the curse and have needlessly dropped points recently, and unfortunately the sides from Sheffield were no different.
Danny Wilson was left scratching his head after his side’s 3-2 loss away to Carlisle.
Despite another two goals from Ched Evans, United still dipped, with Wilson feeling aggrieved after hitting the post three times and claiming that Carlisle’s second was “two to three yards offside”.
Despite this blip, the Blades’ fine form sees them in third place, just two points off second, which happens to be occupied by none other than Sheffield Wednesday.
Gary Megson’s men maintained their stellar home record after a 2-1 win against Tranmere on Monday. Two goals inside the first seven minutes, from Reda Johnson and Chris Lines, were enough to secure the points.
The Owls have now won two on the bounce after dropping five points in their previous two games.
Now that Christmas is over, eyes quickly turn to the January transfer window.
Speculation has already been surrounding both sides, with Wednesday having already made their first move. Goalkeeper Stephen Bywater has signed on a free transfer until the end of the season. The 30-year-old shot-stopper recently completed a three-month loan deal from Derby.
United seem to be trying to bolster their side at the other end of the pitch. Several teams, including the Blades, are supposedly interested in Barnsley striker Danny Haynes. This would add depth and quality to a team who are already joint-third top scorers in the league and would help their promotion push.
After the rush of league games, attention turns back to the FA and the third round when the big boys enter. Wednesday face the difficult tie at home to West Ham. ‘Big Sam’ has got the Hammers pushing for automatic promotion back to the Premiership but he fancies a run in the cup. Given their relative positions, it will be no surprise to you that I have made West Ham favourites at Hillsborough (7/5) compared to the Owls at almost 2/1 (15/8). However, if you fancy Megson’s lot to do it, a 2-1 bet at 9/1 is good value.
Sheffield United have the much easier task of hosting Salisbury City. Darrell Clarke’s team are a bit of an unknown, currently playing in the Conference South against the likes of Dorchester and Maidenhead United. We have United at HUGE odds-on favourites and just cannot see any possibility where they won’t win this game. They are 2/11 for the win, with City as far out as 12’s. Based on United’s current form this could be a mauling and a few quid on 5-0 at 14/1 would not be a bad bet at all!
The glamour tie of the round is without question Man City v Man United. First against second in the Premier ship in an important match that could pave the way to success for their side in both the league and cup. At the Ethiad Stadium and after their recent 6-1 thrashing of United at Old Trafford, I make City favourites at 23/20.
However, we know Sir Alex loves a comeback and a United win (23/10) or even more adventurous.