It was a case of close but no cigar last season as Jose Mourinho saw his Manchester United side finish second in the Premier League behind neighbours and bitter rivals Manchester City who amassed 100 points, 19 more than the runners-up.

With millions spent trying to close the gap, many followers of English football believe The Special One is drinking in the last chance saloon at Old Trafford. A genuine title challenge and run into the latter stages of the Champions League is needed to secure his long-term future as manager of the 20-time top-tier champions but bookmakers expect a tough year ahead.

The ante-post Premier League betting odds at bet365 have The Red Devils at 7/1, third in the list behind two-in-a-row for The Cityzens at a short 4/7 and the 5/1 available when getting your stake on Liverpool. Surely fans would see a third-place end as a step backwards but it’s doubtful too many punters will be happy to take odds-on about a selection over the course of an entire season.

Let’s look at ways you can back Manchester United this term.

Source: ODDSbible via Twitter

Improved United look value at the price

Both halves of the Manchester divide are expected to strengthen over the summer with cash ready to be spent on bringing in reinforcements. Manchester City were thoroughly impressive last season, as their final points tally confirmed, but United lost seven times against the two of City and you’ve got to expect serious improvement on that front.

Mourinho made his first move in June when spending £47m on Brazilian midfielder Fred who joins from Shakhtar Donetsk and that gives an early sign of the mood in the camp. Bringing in new faces is important but so too is keeping hold of the better players already in the dressing room and Marouane Fellaini signed a new two-year deal. The Belgian divides opinion in the stands but he played an important part in the World Cup and certainly knows how to score in the Premier League.

A good mix of old and new and the 7/1 on United will look on the generous side for punters searching for a season-long interest. A top-four finish, which is surely the least fans and the board will expect in the coming season, is 2/7, while Romelu Lukaku is around the 8/1 mark to top score.

Source: Manchester United via Twitter

Three points expected in week one

Man Utd v Leicester City is one of the standout fixtures from week one of the new season and the locals will be expected to hit the ground running. Season ticket holders will have that match picked as a solid three points but what do the recent stats make of it?

The teams played twice last season with United winning 2-0 at Old Trafford in August thanks to goals from Rashford and Fellaini but they had to settle for a 2-2 draw in the reverse leg four months later. A double from Mata was cancelled out by Vardy and a 90th-minute equaliser from Maguire. Amartey was sent off at the death. The Reds have won their last two home games vs Leicester with plenty to spare and -1 on the handicap again will return 21/20.