Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Manchester United
Referee: Mike Dean
Manchester United will have an opportunity for redemption when they return to Molineux on Tuesday, the ground where they were fairly knocked out of the FA Cup quarter-finals by Nuno Espirito Santo’s Wolves last month.
The Red Devil’s were defeated 2-1 in the cup tie when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was still interim United boss and they were held to a 1-1 draw early in the season at Old Trafford under Jose Mourinho’s reign.
Wolves last beat Manchester United twice in one season back in the 1979-80 season and will be looking to replicate this impressive feat. However, under Solskjaer, United have taken the most points in the Premier League since his appointment, one ahead of league leaders Liverpool.
While this recovery has been something few would have predicted, Ole’s Red Devils seem to be running on empty with the same intensity waning compared to the beginning of this new chapter. They have still churned out results but have not been as convincing of late.
Their hosts for the evening have only won one of their last six league matches, drawing three and losing two but are unbeaten in seven home games in all competitions, winning six of them. Despite this slump in form, Wolves are the top side outside of the top six when earning points against the top six themselves.
They have taken 10 points against the established top six, winning two and drawing four out of nine games. Wolves also must prepare for their semi-final bout against Watford at Wembley on Sunday.
At the weekend, both teams had contrasting results with Tuesday’s home side losing away to Burnley while the away side did Wolves a favour and beat Watford who are on Wolves’ tail in the league table.
Ole and the Red Devils are still trying in a tight battle to secure a top-four finish while Wolves are trying to secure a Europa League spot by finishing seventh. Both teams have everything to play and should produce a tense and well-fought spectacle.
Wolves will have central defender Ryan Bennett available after a two-match suspension which will bring back some regularity in the defence that Wolves have become accustomed to. Matt Doherty is also expected to start after featuring in the defeat to Burnley on Saturday as a substitute.
Raul Jimenez was another surprise omission from the squad which lost at Turf Moor, and with it seeming more likely that he will become Wolves record signing, it highlights his importance to the team. He will likely be recalled for Tuesday evening having been rested on Saturday for the upcoming FA Cup semi-final.
He scored in the FA Cup victory over Manchester United last month and will look to link up with partner Jota who also bagged a goal in the cup fixture. These two as a pairing have provided 11 of Wolves’ last 15 home league goals with the Mexican netting six and his Portuguese teammate scoring five.
Manchester United’s Anthony Martial has been cleared for Tuesday’s match after picking up a knock on Saturday. Romelu Lukaku and Victor Lindelof are both available for the fixture and it’s likely that United’s tactics may differ from their previous visit considering Wolves countered effectively.
So much so that nobody has managed more counter attacks leading to shots on goal against United than Wolves have in the FA Cup quarter-final. They are likely going to approach the game with more width in a 4-3-3 to stretch an organised and compact Wolves.
However, the United manager will be without Alexis Sanchez, Antonio Valencia, Eric Bailly and Matteo Darmian who remain sidelined.
Predicted Starting XIs
Wolverhampton Wanderers (3-5-2): Rui Patricio; Bennett, Boly, Coady; Doherty, Dendoncker, Neves, Moutinho, Jonny; Jimenez, Jota.
Manchester United (4-3-3): De Gea; Young, Lindelof, Smalling, Shaw: Matic, Pogba, Lingard; Rashford, Lukaku, Martial.
Prediction: Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 Manchester United 2
Both teams have much to play for with only seven games remaining in the season. Wolves always manage to pull a good performance out against the big teams regardless of current form, so don’t expect them to lie down and roll over for their opponents.
United, on the other hand, will still be stinging from their defeat to Wolves in the FA Cup and European spot rivals Arsenal in succession. They will want to respond immediately to get back ahead of Arsenal after the Gunners saw off Newcastle 2-0 on Monday. A draw wouldn’t be the end of the world but both teams will feel they can win this game, potentially setting up a spectacular mid-week encounter.