After Manchester United’s valiant effort in victory – but aggregate defeat – over Manchester City in midweek, we return to league action against Wolves on Saturday.
These two sides are probably sick of the sight of each other but are very well matched with United two places above the visitors but separated only by goal difference. Wolves are a very good side with a well organised defence, two eye-catching string pullers in the middle and a combination of pace and power from an attack that can hurt you.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer pits his wits against Nuno Espirito Santo for the sixth time in eleven months as the Old Gold make the trip to Old Trafford for a tea time kick off – but there’s only one name on everyone’s lips.
Following his £47m move from Sporting Lisbon, as per BBC Sport, Fernandes will give United an instant upgrade on what we already have and Solskjaer confirmed his newest recruit will be involved in some capacity in this one. The manager could well throw the new man straight in for a full debut but we expect him to be on the bench.
Here is how we think United will line up at Old Trafford with Ole reverting back to a four man defence.
GK – David de Gea
De Gea returned to his impervious best against City in midweek, and a string of superb saves laid the platform for United’s eventual victory. Questions have been asked about DDG’s ability this season but there can be no doubt that he remains as amongst the best.
RB – Aaron Wan-Bissaka
Having been deployed in a more advanced position as a wing-back in midweek, we expect AWB to be restored to his more natural role as an out-an-out right back. He’s been one of United’s most consistent performers this season and will have his work cut out again to deal with the pace and trickery of the Wolves front three. He’s growing as an attacking threat.
CB – Harry Maguire
Fresh from his first United goal against Tranmere, Maguire was part of a superb defensive effort to shut out City in midweek, even though we missed out on the final. The captain made a superb recovering tackle and is beginning to find his feet in the red of United. The first name on the team sheet, he will renew rivalries with the highly-rated Raul Jimenez and one of either Diogo Jota or Pedro Neto.
CB -Victor Lindelof
Alongside him, the Iceman. With Axel Tuanzebe still injured, Lindelof will continue his blossoming, grit and guile partnership with Maguire. In many ways, his own personal individual form mirrors that of our side’s collective efforts – good one week, head-scratchingly average the next. I wish these two would stop trying to play out from the back! Eric Bailly is back fit but we don’t expect him – not year at least – to dislodge either of his centre-back cohorts.
LB – Brandon Williams
Luke Shaw had a good game as a third centre-back against City, to add to his recent strong showing in the same role at Anfield. Nevertheless, Williams has made the left-back spot his own and has been one of the bright spots in a disappointing season. He’s shackled the highly rated pace merchant of Adam Traore magnificently (twice) during our recent FA Cup encounters and will be tasked with doing similar this time.
CM – Fred
With Nemanja Matic suspended after his red card in midweek, Solskjaer has only two possible options to fill the defensive midfield spots, unless he throws a curveball and goes with the likes of James Garner or Timothy Fosu-Mensah. That seems unlikely so it will be the two Brazilians tasked with pulling the strings as United’s creators in chief. Fred scored his first and so far only United goal in the corresponding fixture last term, and has been surely our most improved player since being given a regular run of games.
CM – Andreas Pereira
Just a player that makes you think ‘meh’, I just don’t think he cuts the mustard I’m afraid. Usually starts either as a right-winger or in the 10, but lack of alternatives means he will probably drop deeper alongside his compatriot. You just don’t really notice him much at all, but he has become a regular in the engine room this term under Solskjaer.
RW – Dan James
Having sat out the FA Cup win over Tranmere, ‘DJ’ came on at half time in midweek to try to unsettle City with his pace. James enjoyed a stunning start to life at United but has plateaued a bit of late. He’s lost his way but I think there’s a player in there and it seems likely he will be restored in a right-wing role against Wolves on Saturday. Wolves are well organised and keep things tight at the back, so James faces another testing afternoon at the office.
CAM – Juan Mata
I don’t know about you, but I woke up on Thursday screaming: “LET MATA TAKE IT!!” I still don’t understand why he didn’t take THAT free-kick late on at the Etihad, it was tailor-made for the little magician and on such fates can destinies be decided. As already mentioned, Bruno Fernandes is waiting in the wings to come in to the number ten role, but he’s likely to start amongst the substitutes here as Solskjaer looks to ease him in. Lingard surely can’t be given another go and that leaves Mata for his lock-picking genius and ability to drift into space. Proved the difference between the two sides in the FA Cup replay earlier this month.
LW – Mason Greenwood
Struggled to make an impact and influence the game against Man City but has already hit double figures in his breakthrough senior season. that kind of performance is to be expected every now and then by a striker who’s still only 18. Again, there aren’t many other options in the enforced absence of Marcus Rashford, so Greenwood is likely to play off the left and will need to link up with Anthony Martial.
CF – Anthony Martial
Desperately needs a good performance and a goal. Toiled in vain against Manchester City in a game that showed why United are in urgent need of another striker. Scored against Tranmere but it’s difficult to impress in a game like that when there’s so much of a gulf in class. Has still notched a not too shabby 12 for the campaign but is too lazy and inconsistent. Should we get another centre-forward in on deadline day, perhaps the mercurical Frenchman might buck his ideas up knowing his place is under threat.
Man Utd Predicted XI vs Wolves: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Maguire, Lindelof, Williams; Fred, Andreas Pereira; James, Mata, Greenwood; Martial
Prediction: With little between the two combatants, this is a tough one to call with history suggesting the finest of margins. Both managers will feel they can pull a result out, but the arrival of Fernandes – whether he starts or not – is a huge boost for the team. He’s the player we have been crying out for. A tight game, we think United – again – will just about edge it.
Man Utd 2-1 Wolves