On paper, it looks like a simple equation: on the one hand, you have Manchester United, who will perhaps be buoyed by a high-profile win over Spurs the previous week, and another wobble from neighbours and table-toppers City; and on the other hand, Huddersfield Town, promoted last year but struggling to go the distance with the big boys and still to record a win in 2018.
However, football is not played on paper. The game is full of the distractions of the transfer window at the moment, as City’s newly found fallibility and Arsenal’s slow but sure descent into madness demonstrate.
Mixed season for Huddersfield
It all started so well for Huddersfield. Wins in their first three games left them buoyant, and after a month of Premier League football, they were still undefeated and joint fifth in the table. Then came a reality check, with some tough fixtures against the top teams. When they played Tottenham on the last day of September, the Terriers looked more like a pack of Chihuahuas, and Spurs swept them aside, with Kane and Davies seeing to it that the visitors were 3-0 up in the first 25 minutes, and Sissoko adding insult to injury with a fourth in the dying moments.
After the Tottenham humiliation, Huddersfield visited Swansea and were sent packing with a 2-0 beating. The team looked dispirited with the season only two months old, and this was the context of United’s visit to the John Smith’s Stadium on 21st October.
Fool me once…
The events of late October are the main reason why nobody is taking anything for granted on 3rd February. We have all heard the saying, “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.” However, when it comes down to it, United were the authors of their own misfortune.
They went into the game unbeaten and stalking City at the top of the table. What’s more, they had not lost to Huddersfield since 1952. Huddersfield had gone six long games without a victory. However, a sloppy and unfocused start catapulted the Terriers into a 2-0 lead, and despite United dominating the latter part of the game with 80 per cent of the possession, it was too much to pull back.
But fool me twice?
Surely, there is no way history can repeat itself? It seems inconceivable, and this time, the underdogs have the added factor of playing at Old Trafford to throw into the mix. Of course, for an unbiased view, the person to ask is a bookmaker, and in this age of sports betting online, there is no shortage of those, offering a variety of tips and specials.
What are the odds?
It comes as no surprise that United are runaway favourites for the win on 3rd February, but some might be a little taken aback at just how little chance the bookmakers think the Terriers have of making lightning strike twice. Anyone who fancies a punt on the underdogs can get odds as long as 25/1 on a Huddersfield win. United are currently at 4/21 on, with the draw a 7/1 shot.
The final push
With the FA Cup well under way and spring in the air, there can be no mistaking that the domestic season is getting ready for the final twists and turns. If United can defeat the distracted Tottenham and the struggling Terriers, there is still time for a final assault on the leaders.