Manchester United will be looking to build on their weekend victory, when they face off against Huddersfield Town at Old Trafford on Boxing Day.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be set for a hero’s welcome, as he prepares to take charge of his first-ever home game as Manchester United manager, when his team play Huddersfield Town on Wednesday afternoon.
Solskjaer was appointed the caretaker manager of Manchester United till the end of the season, following the sacking of Jose Mourinho last week. And the Norwegian’s reign at the club was off to a perfect start, as the Red Devils hammered Cardiff City 5-1 away from home on Saturday.
Manchester United looked reinvigorated against the Bluebirds, as they played with more freedom and energy than they have for the majority of the 2018-19 term. And they will be aiming to carry on in the same way when the Terriers come visiting and reduce the gap to the top four to just five points with a win.
Huddersfield Town are staring at the prospect of relegation back to the EFL Championship, as they sit in the 19th position in the Premier League standings after 18 matches. David Wagner’s side have lost all of their last five fixtures, with the latest game ending in a 3-1 defeat at the hands of fellow strugglers Southampton this past weekend.
With just two league wins in the entire campaign, the Terriers have a gargantuan task at their hands to come away with a positive result from Old Trafford against a United side that will be out to prove a point, in the post-Christmas fixture.
Team News & Tactics
Manchester United will continue to be without the services of striker Romelu Lukaku, who has been granted a compassionate leave by the club. Alexis Sanchez returned to Carrington, but is still recovering from his injury and will not be involved either.
Chris Smalling remains a doubt to be involved for the home side, while fellow defender Marcos Rojo is also likely to miss out. Academy graduate Scott McTominay too is unlikely to be involved, having missed the last couple of games with an injury.
Solskjaer is expected to set his team up in a 4-3-3 formation once again, just like he did against Cardiff City at the weekend. The manager will be tempted to stick with the winning combination from the weekend, but there are likely to be some tweaks in the lineup for Wednesday’s game.
David De Gea is a certainty to feature from the get go under the woodwork for United. But, there could be an alteration in defence, with Diogo Dalot likely to come in at right-back in place of veteran Ashley Young against the relegation battlers. The rest of the defence is expected to remain the same with Phil Jones, Victor Lindelof and Luke Shaw all starting.
£52 million man Fred made a brief cameo against Cardiff City, but could be in line for a rare start on Wednesday, replacing Ander Herrera in the middle of the park. Nemanja Matic is likely to continue at the base of the midfield, but needs to exercise caution as he is just a booking away from receiving a suspension. Paul Pogba will look to carry on from where he left off at the weekend.
The front three of Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial were deadly on Saturday as they ran the Cardiff City defence ragged with their pace, movement and intelligent link-up play. No changes expected here.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): De Gea; Dalot, Lindelof, Jones, Shaw; Fred, Matic, Pogba; Lingard, Rashford, Martial;
The Terriers have been struck with a bitter blow as star midfielder Aaron Mooy has been ruled out of action till February due to a knee injury. Along with the Australian international, Wagner will also be without the services of Danny Williams, Tommy Smith and Abdelhamid Sabiri.
However, they will be boosted by the return of winger Rajiv van La Parra. Seasoned campaigner Jonathan Hogg is also close to a return, but might not be risked from the kick off on Wednesday.
Huddersfield are expected to line up with a three-man defensive wall comprising of Mathias Jorgensen, Christopher Schindler and Terence Kongolo, in front of goalkeeper Jonas Lossl, to try and shackle the Manchester United attack on Wednesday. Florent Hadergjonaj and Erik Durm will be wing-backs on the right and left sides respectively.
With Mooy absent, 21-year-old Juninho Bacuna will take over the deep lying playmaker role for the Terriers, with Philip Billing, who scored in the weekend defeat against Southampton, offering support. Former Tottenham Hotspur starlet Alex Pritchard will be in-charge of the creative duties starting in the No. 10 role for the visitors.
Steve Mounie is yet to score a single goal in the Premier League this season and will be hoping to set that right on Boxing Day. Partnering him at the top for Huddersfield will be summer signing Isaac Mbenza, who is also without a goal in the league so far.
Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2): Lossl; Jorgensen, Schindler, Kongolo; Hadergjonaj, Bacuna, Billing, Durm; Pritchard; Mbenza, Mounie;
- Over 2.5 Match Goals @ 1.61
- Both Teams to Score – NO @ 1.61
- Over 2.5 Match Goals and Both Teams to Score – NO @ 3.50
- Manchester United have lost just one of their past 14 games against Huddersfield in all competitions, winning 10 and drawing three.
- Huddersfield Town have not won an away match in all competitions against United since a 6-0 top-flight victory way back in September 1930.
- Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is looking to become the fifth Manchester United manager to win his first two league matches in charge, emulating TJ Wallworth, Matt Busby, Dave Sexton and Jose Mourinho.
- Huddersfield have lost their last five league games, and 10 of their past 14. They have scored just three times in those five defeats.
- Manchester United haven’t lost a home league game on Boxing Day since the 1978-79 season, subsequently winning 14 and drawing three.
Player to Watch
Jesse Lingard (Manchester United)
The Manchester United academy graduate stole the show on Saturday, as he tore apart the Cardiff City defence time and again with his sharpness and the ability to exploit gaps. Lingard ended the game with two goals against his name and an exquisite assist for Anthony Martial’s goal in the first half.
The 26-year-old has now scored four goals in his last four league matches, having failed to score in his first ten appearances in the 2018-19 campaign. Lingard is someone who has worked with the new manager at the youth level before and he could come into his own in the second half of the campaign under Solskjaer’s guidance. Expect more fireworks from the Englishman on Wednesday.
Manchester United 3-1 Huddersfield Town
Manchester United produced the perfect reaction last weekend against Cardiff City to bounce back from their disastrous result against Liverpool prior to that, ensuring that the Solskjaer era was off to a scintillating start. The fluidity, the vibrancy in attack and the intent that the entire team showed against the Bluebirds was a huge positive.
Huddersfield, on the other hand, are struggling to get results at the moment and are coming into the game on the back of five consecutive losses in the Premier League. Wagner’s side have scored just three goals in their last five matches and without Aaron Mooy, they will be hampered further.
After Saturday’s result, Old Trafford will be buzzing on Wednesday night and we at The Hard Tackle expect Manchester United to bag another convincing victory and spread more festive cheer around the club on Solskjaer’s home debut as the manager.