February 5, 2011, 11:00 PM IST [ESPN]
Manchester United travel to Molineux to face rock bottom Wolves, as they continue their surge towards a record 19th title. The Red Devils would be looking for maximum points, but would be hoping for a more comfortable victory than the one at Old Trafford in November, when an injury-time winner from Park-Ji-Sung deprived Wolves from a well deserved point.
Mick McCarthy’s men fell to the bottom of the table in midweek when they suffered a heartbreaking loss at the Reebok Stadium, as Daniel Sturridge pounced on to an error from Ronald Zubar to score the winner for the Trotters in injury time. West Ham’s win at Blackpool compounded the misery for Wolves, as they were left at the bottom of the table for the first time this season. McCarthy would be hoping for his team to produce the same kind of performance that they displayed at Old Trafford, but would definitely want a different result.
Can he keep the Wolves in top flight?
Manchester United, on the other hand, are still unbeaten in the league and have equaled their previous record of 29 games unbeaten, which they achieved in the treble winning season. However, Sir Alex would be delighted by the way his team has played since the second half at Blackpool, where they made a stunning comeback from being 2-0 down at half-time to win the game 3-2. His team followed that performance with an equally good performance against a resurgent Aston Villa, where they ran out comfortable winners by 3-1. The away form has been a worry for United, but only a poor performance could deny them another three points at Molineux.
Team News and Tactical Brief
McCarthy has no new injury problems ahead of the game, as all the players who played in the game against Bolton came out unscathed. However, there are several players who have been injured and will miss this game also. Hunt is still struggling with a calf injury, while Kightly & Mancienne are both out with knee injuries. Guedioura is also missing with a broken leg.
The Wolves manager would be more than happy with a point against United, and is likely to go with a lone striker up-front in the form of Kevin Doyle. His main focus would be to stifle the visitors in midfield, and hence could go with a five man midfield with Jones, Edwards and Henry in the central area. Mat Jarvis, who posed a great threat to United in the two games at Old Trafford earlier this season, would again be on the left hand side and is expected to be involved in most of the attacks for the home side. Jamie O’ Hara could be handed his first start as well since his move from Tottenham, owing to his good performance against Bolton as a late second half substitute.
Sir Alex, like his counterpart, has no new injury worries, as both Fletcher and Rafael have recovered from their head injuries and are fit to play. Fletcher had suffered an eye injury against Villa, while Rafael had missed the last two games due to concussion. Park is back from the Asian Cup but is unlikely to be involved, as he might be rested to recover from a hectic one month in Qatar. Valencia is on his road to recovery, but Hargreaves remains a long term casualty.
The manager must be having a selection headache ahead of the game against Wolves, with Rooney seemingly coming back to form in the game against Villa. On the other hand, Javier Hernandez has been in rich vein of form himself , scoring in all three of United’s away wins so far this season. Having said that, Sir Alex is most likely to go with his preferred choice of Berbatov and Rooney, with Hernandez coming on as an impact substitute. The first choice back four is also likely to start, with Rafael available for selection. In the midfield, Scholes is almost certain to start alongside Carrick, as the 36 year old was rested for the Villa game. Ryan Giggs could be rested having played in midweek, and hence Nani could be used in the left wing, with Fletcher patrolling the right hand side.
Key Match Facts
1. Wolves have lost most matches (15) in the league so far this season.
2. Mick McCarthy would be in charge of his 100th Premier League game.
3. Nani has scored more goals with his left foot than his preferred right one this season.
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
The striker scored two well taken goals against Villa in midweek and is looking like coming back to his best. He has always been known to score in clutches of five to six games; if that turns out to be the case, Wolves will be in for a long night.
Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-3 Manchester United
Wolves will made a good game of it, but the class and form of United will see them through to a comfortable victory in the end, thus taking their unbeaten run to 30 games, which would be a new club record.
TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST