Manchester United will kickstart a new era under caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer when they take on Cardiff City this weekend.
Manchester United will be aiming to start life in the post Jose Mourinho era with a victory, as they travel to Wales, to face off against Cardiff City this Saturday.
The Red Devils sacked the Portuguese tactician, following their 3-1 humbling at the hands of bitter rivals and Premier League leaders Liverpool last weekend. Following Mourinho’s departure, Manchester United have appointed former striker and club legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as the caretaker manager till the end of the season.
Manchester United are currently sitting in the sixth spot on the league table, a whopping 22 points behind leaders Liverpool. And the club will be hoping that the Baby-Faced Assassin will be able to get the team firing on all cylinders again as they look to close down the gap to the top four.
The Norwegian, coincidentally, will be making his managerial debut for the 20-time English champions against a team he has managed before. Solskjaer was in-charge of Cardiff City in 2014, but failed to save them from relegation and was sacked after things didn’t improve for him in the Championship as well.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 21, 2018
Cardiff City are sixteenth in the standings, just two points above the drop zone. Neil Warnock’s side have seen things improve in recent weeks after an extremely disappointing start to the season and have won two of their last four league fixtures. However, they come into the game on the back of a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Watford.
Given the current instability surrounding Manchester United, the Bluebirds will be looking to make the most of the situation and cause an upset victory this weekend.
Team News & Tactics
The home team are likely to be without Danny Ward for the game, while Jazz Richards is also set to be unavailable. Joe Bennett is a doubt to feature, after coming off injured in the last match against Watford. Warnock is expected to set his team up in a 4-5-1 formation on Saturday.
Neil Etheridge is a guaranteed starter between the sticks for the Bluebirds. Bruno Ecuele Manga should hold on to his spot at right-back, with Greg Cunningham likely to come in at left-back for the injured Bennett. The established centre-back pairing of Sean Morrison and Sol Bamba will feature from the get-go.
Aron Gunnarsson will shield his back four in the middle of the park, with support coming from Bournemouth loanee Harry Arter along with fellow summer arrival Victor Camarasa. Junior Hoilett, who scored in the defeat against Watford, is likely to hold on to his spot on the right flank ahead of Nathaniel Mendez-Laing while Josh Murphy will provide the width on the opposite wing.
Utility man Callum Paterson, who is Cardiff City’s leading goalscorer this term with four strikes, should continue as the lone striker upfront.
Probable Lineup (4-5-1): Etheridge, Ecuele Manga, Morrison, Bamba, Cunningham; Hoilett, Camarasa, Gunnarsson, Arter, Murphy; Paterson
Alexis Sanchez will be unavailable for Solskjaer’s first game in charge, while fellow forward Romelu Lukaku is also set to miss out. The centre-back duo of Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo are also doubtful for the weekend fixture, as is left-back Luke Shaw, whereas midfielder Scott McTominay is also unlikely to be involved.
It will be interesting to see how Manchester United set out and play under their new manager. A 4-3-3 formation seems a good fit for the Red Devils, with David de Gea set to continue between the sticks. Diogo Dalot did not have the best of games against Liverpool last time out, but needs to be be backed at right-back, while Ashley Young is likely to feature at left-back with Shaw still recovering.
Eric Bailly and the fit-again Victor Lindelof will resume their partnership at the heart of the defence and will look to put behind the performance against Liverpool last weekend with a strong display.
Nemanja Matic is likely to continue at the base of the midfield for the Red Devils, while Ander Herrera should also get the nod in the middle of the park. Paul Pogba should walk back into the starting XI to face Cardiff on Saturday, after being left out on the bench last time out against Liverpool.
Jesse Lingard is someone Solskjaer has worked with in the youth ranks before and is likely to enjoy the manager’s trust. He should feature from the kick off on the right flank, with Anthony Martial set to start out on the opposite side. Spearheading the attack in Lukaku’s absence will be Marcus Rashford.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): De Gea; Dalot, Bailly, Lindelof, Young; Herrera, Matic, Pogba; Lingard, Rashford, Martial;
1. Manchester United to win @ 1.61
2. Marcus Rashford to score anytime @ 2.50
1. Marcus Rashford to score 2 or more @ 9.00
- Cardiff City have won only one of their last 12 league matches against Manchester United (D3 L8), winning 3-0 in November 1960.
- Manchester United have been defeated in their last three Premier League away games against promoted sides, as many losses as in their previous 36 matches against top-flight newcomers (W27, D6).
- Cardiff have won four of their last five Premier League home games, as many as they had in their previous 22 in the competition.
- Manchester United’s tally of 26 points is their worst at this stage of a season since 1990, when they had an identical record (W7 D5 L5) but one point fewer as a punishment for a brawl against Arsenal.
- The Red Devils have conceded 29 league goals this season – the last time they let in more in their opening 18 top-flight matches was in 1962-63.
Player to Watch
The Frenchman will be under the spotlight on Saturday night, following the furore he created with his social media post in the aftermath of Mourinho’s sacking. Pogba was left out on the benches for United’s last three league games by Mourinho and on the rare start that he got against Valencia in Europe, the World Cup winner failed to make a solid impression.
The general consensus is that Mourinho was never able to get the best out of the club-record signing with his defensive tactics. But, with a new manager at the helm now, that could be set to change. Solskjaer has worked with Pogba before and has expressed his desire to build a team around him. Will this be the turning point in the 25-year-old’s second stint at Old Trafford?
Cardiff City 1-2 Manchester United
Manchester United start the weekend eleven points off the top four and desperately need a win on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s managerial debut, if they are to stay in the hunt for the Champions League qualifying spots. The change of regime at the club will have created a positive atmosphere and boosted the morale within the squad after what have been a difficult few weeks.
Cardiff City, on the other hand, have improved in recent weeks and start the weekend two points clear of the bottom three. The Bluebirds have picked up maximum points in each of their three previous home fixtures in the Premier League and are likely to make things difficult for the visitors this weekend.
However, a managerial challenge during the course of the campaign, more often than not, draws a positive reaction from the players. And, that is what is likely to happen with Manchester United as well, which is why, we at The Hard Tackle are tipping the Red Devils to come away with all three points from the Cardiff City Stadium.