Everything points to Manchester United easing themselves through to the last 16 of the Europa League on Thursday night, when they host Ajax, so either pick a very specific or a shockingly unlikely result to make it worth your while.

It looks like job done for Manchester United as Ajax would need to score three goals (at least) at Old Trafford on Thursday night to overturn the 2-0 United clocked up when they played in Amsterdam a week ago. 

Javier HernandezGoals from Ashley Young and Javier Hernandez (both scored in the second-half) mean Manchester United are comfortably in the driving seat for their second leg Europa League last 32 tie. United are now 1/66 to qualify for the next stage (and 4/1 in the betting odds to actually lift the Europa League trophy) while Ajax are 40/1 (and 750/1).

The result in Amsterdam was wildly celebrated (after the humbling exit from the Champions League), but the manner of victory was described by Fergie as "very ordinary". Still, the rosy cheeked Scot tried to look on the bright side, “It gives us a good opportunity to get through. It was a big win.” A straight repeat of that scoreline is available at the short odds of 11/2, while Ajax reversing it (and forcing extra time) is at 40/1 (the same as a 5-1 home victory). It seems 2-0 is a bridge too far for Ajax and I see no sensible reason not to back Manchester United progressing through.

There's a little bit more bad news for Ajax

Ajax are missing several first-team regulars; Gregory van der Wiel, Eyong Enoh, Derk Boerrigter and Kolbeinn Sigthorsson are all off sick ahead of the second leg and there are doubts over both Theo Janssen and Dmitry Bulykin. And their young Danish international, Nicolai Boilesen, picked up another hamstring injury and will miss the trip to Old Trafford. Although, it's worth noting that Boilesen was hardly missed in Ajax’s last game, a 4-1 Eredivisie win over NEC last weekend. By comparison Alex Ferguson can safely rest some of his superstars ahead of the weekend's tricky trip to Norwich in the “every point counts” Premier League.

What do the bookies know?

The half time/full time odds favour Manchester United. The sportsbooks have them winning both halves at 5/6 while at half-time draw and a Manchester United full time victory hovers around 3/1; and the game being drawn on the 45 and 90 minute mark (which is no help to Ajax) is available at 6/1. Ajax winning both halves, which the bookies seem to think is the most likely way that they'll win the game, is at 14/1 while Ajax snatching victory at the full-time whistle after drawing the game at half-time is at 20/1. I'm not really taken by any of those odds, although I do like the sound of Ajax leading at the break and the game ending drawn, which is available as high as 26/1, certainly worth a cheeky bet.

Archaeologists and history scholars might like to know that these two sides have met before in a two legged affair, in the 1975 –76 season. Back then United won 2-1 on aggregate. A reproduction of that aggregate score would see Ajax winning at Old Trafford 1-0 which is available at 20/1. 

There is a glimmer of hope for Ajax

A two goal deficit is not insurmountable. Manchester United were knocked out of a European tie after winning the first leg five years ago, when they beat AC Milan 3-2 at Old Trafford, but lost 3-0 in the second leg over in Italy. The same scoreline is available at 100/1 or even 150/1 with the books. It’s worth a loose change bet as it would see Ajax progress, and stranger things have happened. 3-1 (available at a considerably more reasonable 66/1) would also see the Amsterdam side go through, on away goals. 

I think it's highly unlikely but I think it is worth a (tiny) bet on Ajax winning the game. An away win is at 8/1, although United haven’t lost a European match at home since 2009, a run of 11 games. A draw is also certainly worth a shout at 4/1, as a tied game (at any score) would see the Red Devils through to the last 16.

I'm expecting a spirited display from Ajax, but everything points towards Alex Ferguson taking one step closer to the only major competition he hasn't yet won in his quarter century at Old Trafford.

Soccer betting prediction: The game ends drawn 1-1 at 17/2