|By PAUL GOUGH
It is not even Christmas and the official half-way mark of the English Premier League season, but already Manchester United are odds-on favourites to claim a staggering 13th title from the past 21 seasons under their legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
United's dramatic 3-2 win at reigning champions and bitter rivals Manchester City last Sunday has proved the defining moment in title betting on the EPL so far this season.
And given United traditionally are a stronger team in the second half of the season than the first [even despite the gruelling group stage of the Champions League to contend with], the Red Devils are now at their shortest odds all season to claim the title.
United are the $1.61 title favourites at Betfair, with City out to $3.35 after that costly loss.
Chelsea, at $17, are the only other team priced under $100.
And while City have the advantage of no European competition after the winter break, it is going to take a herculean effort for them to make up the six-point gap as they still have to face United at Old Trafford later in the season.
Roberto Mancini's team should have no trouble bouncing back from their loss to United on Saturday when they travel to out-of-form Newcastle, with City the $1.69 favourites at Betfair and Newcastle at $5.90.
The draw is priced at $4.10.
However, they are unlikely to pick up any ground this week, with the Red Devils the shortest-priced favourites among the six Saturday matches at $1.21 to win at home against relegation-threatened Sunderland at $18, while even the draw is paying $8 at Betfair.
But while City and United are short odds to win again, there is value in the other four games on Saturday.
|Manchester United to win v Sunderland at $1.61 at Betfair
||Back the draw in both the Stoke-Everton and QPR-Fulham matches|
Liverpool are short at $1.39 at Betfair at home to an improving Villa side, which are great value at $10 after having won through to the League Cup semi-finals on Tuesday. The draw is also good value at $5.20.
Norwich should bounce back from their defeat to Villa in the cup when they take on struggling Wigan at home.
However, with Stoke unbeaten in their past six matches, the draw might be the way to go in that game at $3.35 at Betfair.
And in the final game, bottom-placed QPR - still searching for their first win after 16 matches this season [the worst start ever by a side in the EPL] - are poor value as the $2.60 favourites at home against London rivals Fulham at $2.98, with the draw again looking the way to go in this game at $3.50.
*Note prices subject to change