Manchester United host Wolverhampton Wanderers in either sides’ first league game of the new calendar year as they both look to improve their standings over the remainder of the campaign. An impressive outing against Burnley saw the Red Devils display a promising performance, while a nil-all draw against Chelsea contributed to Wolves’ ambitions of qualifying for Europe next season.
Six league games unbeaten heading into the fixture on Monday, United will be keen on improving their performances and gaining consistent results over the coming weeks. Ralf Rangnick’s side have shown signs of promise vis-à-vis to a refreshing approach, however, with the team in need of results heading into a pivotal part of the season, the game against Wolves serves as a crucial juncture in United’s ambitions over the coming weeks.
Having secured only one victory in their last five league fixtures, Wolves will be keen on witnessing an upturn in results over the coming weeks. Although Bruno Lage’s side have remained consistent in their approach, a lack of favourable results could potentially impede their ambitions for Europe heading into the final months of the campaign. Facing a promising United side, Wolves will be hopeful of causing an upset at Old Trafford later this evening.
WHEN & WHERE?
Venue: Old Trafford.
Date: Monday, 3rd of January 2022.
Time: Kick-off at 17:30 BST.
Referee: Mike Dean.
Assistants: Darren Cann, Eddie Smart.
Fourth official: Robert Jones.
VAR: Andre Marriner.
Assistant VAR: Gary Beswick.
Bruno Fernandes is likely to return to the starting line-up after serving a one-game ban against Burnley last week. Although Eric Bailly allayed fears of a potential injury, the centre-back is unlikely to find himself in contention against Wolves given his involvement in the AFCON starting this weekend. Paul Pogba remains the only name sidelined with injury, with the fellow international, Anthony Martial, too, expected to remain out of contention given his desire to move elsewhere during the January transfer window.
With Harry Maguire unspotted amongst the match-squad, United could potentially line up with Raphael Varane and Victor Lindelof later this evening. Having displayed a promising performance against Burnley, Rangnick is expected to make minimal changes amidst a need for consistent improvement over the coming weeks.
Having been impacted with a cluster of Covid-19 cases in recent weeks, Wolves will be hoping to display a comeback performance later this evening. Pedro Neto and Jonny continue recovering from long-term injuries, with the likes of Willy Boly, Hwang Hee-Chan, and Yerson Mosquera, too, out of contention for the game against United.
Rayan Ait-Nouri remains an additional name on the sidelines as the youngster continues recovering from a groin injury. With the team lacking depth in personnel, Bruno Lage is expected to retain the same XI that saw them earn a point against Chelsea, though the game at Old Trafford could prove comparatively challenging later this evening.
With both teams in desperate need of results and consistency, Monday’s encounter could provide a palatable match-up for all viewers. While the Red Devils are yet to stumble under the new manager, the team have struggled to display convincing performances as they look to improve on their approach and execution over the coming weeks. Wolves, on the other hand, have repeatedly failed in emerging clinical in front of goal, having netted only 13 times in the ongoing campaign as they look towards finding positive results over the remainder of the season.
Having shown gradual improvement in their defensive shape under Rangnick, United will be keen on building upon the recent positives under their new manager. Facing a Wolves side proactive in possession and capable of playing through United’s compact defensive system, the Red Devils will be keen on nullifying the visitors’ midfield transitions and the impact of their attacking wing-backs later this evening. With United in desperate need of adopting a refreshing approach despite positive results, Rangnick will be keen on avoiding any hiccups over the coming fixtures.
Meanwhile, having taken only five points from their last five league games, Wolves will be keen on improving their results heading into the final months of the campaign. Facing a United side struggling for cohesion, the visitors will be keen on capitalizing on the home side’s weaknesses across the backline and midfield; hoping to impede their progression up the pitch whilst pinning their full-back backs within their own half for most of the ninety minutes. However, with the team having missed out on boxing day given a postponement, Wolves will be wary of delivering an unpalatable display later this evening.
MANCHESTER UNITED – SCOTT MCTOMINAY
Amongst United’s most consistent players in recent weeks, McTominay will be expected to deliver a dominating performance on Monday. Given Wolves’ comparatively experienced and ingenious midfield partnership, the Scotsman’s tenacity combined with his physicality will be vital to United’s ball retention and build-up play later this evening.
Having been deployed in a relatively advanced role against Burnley, McTominay will be hoping to improve his output from a potentially similar role later this evening. However, with the visitors keen on a result amidst comprising a comparatively cohesive midfield, McTominay’s weaknesses and attributes are likely to be tested later this evening.
WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS – ADAMA TRAORE
Wolves’ most threatening presence in the attacking third, Traore’s pace combined with his physicality is likely to cause problems for United’s backline later this evening. Provided the visitor’s sense with an opportunity on the counter-attack, given United’s passive defending, and look to attack the space down the flanks, Traore is likely to emerge as a significant presence across the attacking front.
Although the winger is yet to find consistency in his finishing, given his ability in delivering crosses and United’s susceptibility in defending them, Wolves could potentially hurt the home side on numerous fronts. Nevertheless, provided he finds himself ahead of space on the flanks, Traore is likely to cause issues to United’s backline this evening.
Manchester United (4-2-2-2) – David De Gea; Diogo Dalot, Raphael Varane, Nemanja Matic, Luke Shaw; Scott McTominay, Fred; Jadon Sancho, Bruno Fernandes; Cristiano Ronaldo, Edinson Cavani.
Wolverhampton Wanderers (3-4-3) – Jose Sa; Max Kilman, Conor Coady, Romain Saiss; Ki-Jana Hoever, Ruben Neves, Joao Moutinho, Fernando Marcal; Adama Traore, Raul Jimenez, Daniel Podence.