When Manchester United play Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday afternoon at Molineux, they will be attempting to make three straight Premier League wins.
With a game pending, the Red Devils are presently fifth in the standings, one point below fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur, while Wolves are currently 18th and have 13 points after 16 games in 2022–23.
The first two games of Julen Lopetegui’s tenure as Wolves’ head coach have resulted in victories for his team, including a 2-0 victory over Gillingham in the EFL Cup on December 20.
On Boxing Day, Wolves got the better of Everton [FT: 2-1] in the Premier League, rallying from behind to win at Goodison Park. Daniel Podence tied the game in the 22nd minute after Yerry Mina had opened the scoring, and Rayan Ait-Nouri scored the game-winning goal in the 95th.
With just one point separating them from 17th-place Everton after the match, the 2017–18 Championship victors are now in position 18 in the standings. Lopetegui’s appointment as head coach appears to have provided the side a boost; the 56-year-old has previously managed Spain and Real Madrid over his career.
Wolves will play Aston Villa in the Premier League on January 4, followed by Liverpool and Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup and EFL Cup, respectively. Wolves have a hectic start to the month of January. There is no escaping the fact that the team has had a difficult first half of the season, but the victory over Everton would have been a big morale booster at a crucial point in the campaign.
In their previous meeting with Man United in January, Wolves prevailed 1-0 at Old Trafford thanks to a goal from Joao Moutinho in the 82nd minute.
United, meanwhile, come into this game defeating Nottingham Forest 3-0 during mid-week, with Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, and Fred getting on the score sheets.
The Red Devils resumed business on December 21 after the World Cup, defeating Burnley 2-0 to advance in the EFL Cup and dominating Forest to close the gap on fourth-place Spurs in the standings to one point with a match in hand over them.
After a shaky start to the season, Erik ten Hag’s team has now won nine, drawn two, and lost four of their 15 league games for a total of 29 points. There have been several encouraging signals. After this contest, Man United will play four straight home games against Bournemouth, Manchester City, Everton, and Charlton Athletic.
With an aggregate of thirteen points from eight games, the Red Devils possess the fifth-best away record in the League this year, but they have given up 16 goals on the road so far.
Despite scoring twice against Everton, Wolves are remain the league’s lowest scorers, but Lopetegui will be convinced that he can unleash the attacking ability that definitely there at Molineux.
When & Where?
Venue: The Molineux
Date: Saturday, 31st December 2022.
Time: 12:30 GMT.
Referee: Robert Jones.
Assistant Referees: Lee Betts, Ian Hussin.
Fourth Official: Thomas Bramall.
VAR Official: Darren England.
Chiquinho, Pedro Neto, and Sasa Kalajdzic will continue to serve their time on the sidelines for the hosts, but that may not reciprocate with Boubacar Toure and Jonny Castro, who may return to the lineup.
With Podence also being a serious concern due to the leg injury he sustained against Everton, Goncalo Guedes may start in the final third of the pitch right away.
Ait-Nouri and Matheus Nunes are also in contention for a spot in the tunnel, although Diego Costa should keep Raul Jimenez on the bench and start upfront with Lopetegui preferring the services of Hwang Hee-chan from the right.
Both of Victor Lindelof and Scott McTominay were absent owing to illness for Man United when they faced Forest, and are still uncertain. The duo of Diogo Dalot (hamstring) and Jadon Sancho (fitness) may also be ruled out.
Following his exemplary World Cup with Argentina, Lisandro Martinez is back in training with the Reds from Manchester since Wednesday. It would not be surprising to see him start at the heart of the defence with Raphael Varane.
Luke Shaw, who started at centre-back against Forest, should switch positions back to being a left-back here, with Bruno Fernandes, Casemiro, and Christian Eriksen likely to remain in the middle of the field.
Lopetegui is expected to employ a majorly defensive approach against the Red Devils. Wolves will aim to play on the counter and play long balls to utilise Diego Costa’s aerial and physical prowess if he starts.
Ten Hag’s side on the other hand go into this game on a high having outperformed each of their opponents in their past three games in all competitions.
United will have to be weary of their opponents on counter. Hwang Hee-Chan and Daniel Podence’s lethal pace could create problems for the Red Devils as they’ll be set up high.
Man United will have to be more clinical in front of the goal though. They have created the fourth-highest big chances in the league (31) and have scored just 23 goals.
Possibly the most important player for the Wolves is Neves. If the Wolves are to prevail in this match, Ruben Neves’ greatest traits, such as long shots, rotating the play, and marking, will be essential. To prevent the ball from reaching the United frontline in the offensive midfield zones and contain them before they make a piercing pass, Neves will need to be at the top of his game. There’s no doubt that the midfield can win this game.
The 25-year-old has been in stellar form this season. He has the most goals for United in the Premier League and is also second on the assists list of the club.
His staggering pace and skills will be important as United will aim to break down a resilient Wolves defence. His creative ability is also something to think about as his crossing and passing is top notch as well.
Wolves (4-3-3): Sa; Semedo, Collins, Kilman, Ait-Nouri; Nunes, Neves, Moutinho; Hwang, Costa, Guedes.
Manchester United (4-3-3): De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Martinez, Shaw; Fernandes, Casemiro, Eriksen; Antony, Martial, Rashford.