United fans have been remarkably patient this season. Yes, the team is not where anyone wants it to be, and there are several major issues that need addressed at different levels of the club’s structure. Yet, the haphazard performances and results have been, by and large, greeted with a sense of level-headedness. For instance, fans did not get carried away after the good performance against Brighton, nor did they lose the plot after the limp effort against Bournemouth.

Fans have recognised that United are a work in progress – a big job, of course – and there has been a sense of patience since those early season struggles evidently became more of pattern. Fans aren’t happy, certainly. But there is an acceptance that the job is so complicated that there is no single area to concentrate the anger upon.

United backed to overhaul gap
Bookmakers, of course, are supposed to look at things a little more objectively than fans. But do United’s odds for various bits of success this season really match up to the facts? Arguably, the answer is no. According to the latest online football betting odds, United are 7/2 to achieve a top 4 finish in the Premier League. That’s despite being nine points behind the current occupants of fourth place, Manchester City. In financial terms, bookies have oversold United’s chances in this market.

The question is why? Well, we should point out that there is perhaps a Big 6 bias with bookmakers, as evidenced in the fact that Arsenal and Spurs can also be bagged at 5/1 and 4/1 respectively for a Top 4 finish (odds from 888sport online). But there is still something more that tends to provide bookmakers with rose tinted glasses when it comes to this current side, and, unfortunately, it usually leads to profit when betting against Solskjaer’s men. Some of the betting odds, especially in the away games versus teams like Bournemouth and Wolves were ridiculously short.

Look, nobody is saying it is impossible for United to reach the Top 4, and the same would go for Spurs and Arsenal. But there would have to be an almost perfect push between now and the end of the season from United, perhaps combined with the hope that a team like Leicester or Chelsea really starts to skid.

Europa League odds look more reasonable
Perhaps an area where the bookies have a little more restraint is the Europa League. United and Arsenal are both given status as joint favourites, with the odds coming in at 6/1. The level in the competition is fairly poor this season, and it doesn’t look like there will be massively strong teams parachuting in after the Champions League group stage this season, albeit one of Inter Milan and Borussia Dortmund looks destined to join the Europa League party in the new year.

Perhaps, in a way, United fans can take some heart from the fact that bookmakers are reluctant to stop backing them to succeed. We can speculate that bookmakers do this because they know a huge fanbase will back United to succeed. But the world of odds-setting is more likely to be controlled by algorithms rather than a crafty bookie in a camel coat. Somewhere in the system the cold hard numbers say that United are a decent bet, and let’s hope we soon start seeing that evidence with our own eyes.