Cardiff City vs Manchester United
Venue: Cardiff City Stadium
TV: BT Sport 1
Referee: Michael Oliver
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first game in charge as Manchester United’s interim manager will see him travel to Wales to face his old club Cardiff City this weekend.
United’s humiliating loss to Liverpool last week proved to be the final nail in the coffin for Jose Mourinho’s tenure at the club. Jurgen Klopp’s men inflicted a fifth league defeat on a beleaguered Manchester United and goals from Sadio Mané and Xherdan Shaqiri meant that United have now conceded 29 goals this season.
Mourinho managed a meager win rate of 41.7% this season as his side took just 26 points from 17 matches. This poor record was compounded by some abject performances against the likes of West Ham and Manchester City. Although a win against Cardiff would not change their position in the league, three points are essential for Solskjaer to get his tenure off to a good start.
Cardiff City sit in 16th place just two points off the relegation zone although their recent home form, four wins in their last five matches, is something of a minor miracle and should provide them with a good foundation going forward, this match will be a task in itself. Warnock’s men have lost 11 matches this season and have only won four and drawn two. If they are to survive relegation then they need to get points on the board by any means necessary and that includes some scrappy draws.
Goals are also a huge concern for the Bluebirds; they have only scored 17 goals while conceding 33. In order for Warnock to guide the club to another season in the Premier League, the likes of Junior Hoilett will have to find his scoring boots sooner rather than later. A win this weekend would see Cardiff climb as high as 14th place while another loss could see them dragged back into the bottom three.
Cardiff will be without Danny Ward and Jazz Richards who miss out through knee and hamstrings injuries respectively. There are also doubts over the fitness of Joe Bennett, Greg Cunningham and Kenneth Zohore.
Bennett will be a huge miss for the Bluebirds if he is unavailable. The English defender was instrumental to his side’s three clean sheets this season and they could be in for a tough time this weekend as United look to bounce back under the guidance of a manager who has wanted to be known for his attacking brand of football.
Alexis Sanchez is currently the only definite absentee for United as he continues to recover from a hamstring injury while Scott McTominay, Chris Smalling, Luke Shaw and Marcus Rojo are all battling to be fit.
It will be very interesting to see how Solskjaer lines his team up this weekend. United fans will want to see the return of a rejuvenated Paul Pogba after he was banished from the starting line up by Mourinho in recent weeks. Nemanja Matic could be set for a place on the bench after recent poor performances and Romelu Lukaku is set to miss the next two fixtures on compassionate leave.
Predicted Starting XIs
Cardiff City (4-4-1-1): Etheridge; Ecuele Manga, Morrison, Sol Bamba, Peltier; Arter, Gunnarsson, Ralls, Hoilett; Camarasa; Paterson
Manchester United (4-3-3): De Gea; Dalot, Bailly, Jones, Young; Herrera, Pogba, Mata; Martial, Rashford, Lingard
Score Prediction: Cardiff City 0 Manchester United 2
Warnock has done well to turn Cardiff’s home form around in recent weeks but I fully expect a galvanized Manchester United to take all three points. The appointment of club legend Solskjaer should give the side a much-needed morale boost and help United get their season back on track. Cardiff will make United work hard for all three points but the Red Devils’ quality should shine through on Saturday.