Stan Hey: 6-5 Against

Take Stoke to capitalise on United divisions
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The Independent Online

Almost immediately after Chancellor George Osborne had announced his drastic spending review another millionaire, Wayne Rooney, unveiled his own version. But while George wants to cut spending, Wayne wanted to see it increased at Manchester United.

Chancellor Rooney had probably seen the effects of a leveraged buyout on Liverpool, where the previous owners' purchasing costs were piled on to the club's debts, forcing the sale of several good players, replacing them with dross. He feared the same at Old Trafford, after Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez were sold. Rooney proposed to help by, er, leaving.

But now it turns out that talk of Rooney's departure was exaggerated. It wasn't about the club's transfer policy, just a bigger pay cheque – manager Sir Alex Ferguson's unusually tolerant reaction had suggested the possibility of reconciliation rather than the traditional cement overcoat in the River Clyde, and now peace reigns.

In the meantime United are back to 5-1 from 6-1 to win the Premier League with Betfred, whose owner, Fred Done, is a rabid Red Devil. They remain as big as 11-1 for the Champions League. But those malicious punters who took the odds-on about Rooney going (1-3 with Skybet, for instance) will be as sore as the United dressing room, upset by Rooney's negotiating antics.

Tomorrow's game at Stoke City is still a test of United's shaken morale, and their floundering defence. An opportunist £10 goes on Stoke to win at 9-2 (Paddy Power), combined with £10 on Arsenal to beat the "cow in the other field", Manchester City, at 2-1 (Totesport).