Man Utd showed great determination to finally overcome a plucky Southampton and win the EFL Cup last weekend, and now manager Jose Mourinho could be on course for an unlikely treble in his first season at the helm. What a difference a few months make: towards the end of 2017 he was written off as a manager past his peak, left behind by veritable whippersnappers like Antonio Conte and Jurgen Klopp, with his side well adrift in the league.
The reaction has been superb as Man Utd have emerged as one of the form teams in the land. It culminated with the EFL Cup triumph, but Utd have been excellent for months now, having really closed the gap on the top four and progressed in the FA Cup and Europa League. Now they have genuine hopes of winning both those trophies and finishing in the Champions League places come the end of the campaign.
Football odds show that Man Utd are now the favourites to win the Europa League. They are heavy favourites too: Man Utd are 2/1 and the next team, Roma, are all the way back on 11/2, followed by Lyon and Celta Vigo at 12/1, Schalke 04 at 14/1, Borussia Monchengladbach on 16/1 and Besiktas and Ajax, who are both 20/1. Man Utd are vastly superior to all of those teams, bar Roma. Luciano Spalletti’s side have enjoyed another strong season in Italy and look set to finish second, behind the mighty Juventus. For the past couple of seasons they have been fantastic going forwards, and that has continued, and poor defensively, but they have also tightened things up at the back and are keeping more clean sheets now. They beat Villarreal, a team in the top six in Spain, 4-1 on aggregate in the last round, so they are to be feared.
But nobody will be more feared than Man Utd, boasting the attacking talents of Zlatan Ibrahimovich, who only seems to get better with age. In Paul Pogba they have a marvellous midfielder and David De Gea is great between the sticks. They are far from the finished article and there are question marks over the defence, but there is a good spine to this team now, plenty of options going forwards and a strong mentality. Success breeds success and that EFL Cup win will have done wonders for the players’ belief and confidence. The league cup was the first one Mourinho won at Chelsea and it ushered in a golden age. Man Utd fans will be hoping for a similar situation now.
They face a monumental task in getting through to the semi-finals of the FA Cup, as they face a Chelsea side that has dominated the Premiership this year and has opened up a huge gap at the top of the table. Antonio Conte’s men have the league title in the bag and can afford to really focus on the FA Cup in a bid to win the double.
Odds show Chelsea to be favourites at 6/5, while Man Utd are the 29/10 underdogs. Home advantage certainly plays a part in that, as does the form of Chelsea, but it is telling that the Blues are not odds-on to win it, which they would be against virtually any other team in the land. If Man Utd can scrape through – and it will take a vast improvement on their performance when these sides met in the league – they will surely be favourites to win it.
Right now they are fifth favourites, but that is down to the difficult draw, as Arsenal and Tottenham face lower league opposition, but if they make the semis they will be in the driving seat and should go on to win it. Right now Man Utd need fear no one, and more glory this season looks a distinct prospect.