Manchester United will look to keep their momentum from the Chelsea drubbing going as they travel to Molineux to face Nuno Espirito Santo led Wolves on Monday.
What a pre-season it has been for Manchester United. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men won all their matches in pre-season and backed it up with a thumping 4-0 win over Chelsea at Old Trafford to open their 2019-20 Premier League campaign with a bang.
One of the key features of the 4-0 win was that all three of their summer signings made an impact on the result. Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s inclusion in defence made United’s backline stronger than ever in recent years and the results showed on the field, with the duo dominant in their respective roles.
Wolves, on the other hand, were ‘unlucky’ to not register a win in their opening game against Leicester City. Rather, the new handball rules are to blame for it. VAR did its job showing that the ball had indeed hit the arm, albeit unintentionally. The new handball rules though, made sure the goal was disallowed and the game eventually ended 0-0.
Manchester United struggled against Wolves last season, losing twice at Molineux and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would be keen to revisit the ghosts of last season and exterminate them.
Team News & Tactics
Nuno Espirito Santo’s system is well set and the players have been immersed into the tactical style quite ably by now. The 3-5-2 setup allows Wolves to be more adventurous while also being able to revert to a back-five shape when defending in numbers. Much of the same side, if not all, from the 0-0 draw against Leicester will be retained.
Wolves had problems dealing with midweek matchdays and weekend fixtures in the same week last season due to depth. But, the club addressed this in the summer and showed a glimpse of it in the 4-0 rout of Pyunik in the Europa League qualification phase, with Joao Moutinho and Conor Coady the only players to have started in both the competitive games for Wolves in the last week.
While the two could need rest, Espirito Santo will likely risk them against Manchester United. The back-three should also feature Ryan Bennett and Willy Boly, with Jesus Vallejo likely to be eased into the team as a regular. The midfield five of Matt Doherty, Jonny, Ruben Neves, Joao Moutinho and Leander Dendoncker will all start, with Moutinho perhaps the only one that could be taken off early on account of rest.
Star striker Raul Jimenez is a certainty in the forward line along with Diogo Jota upfront.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Patricio; Bennett, Coady, Boly; Doherty, Dendoncker, Neves, Moutinho, Jonny; Jota, Jimenez
A thunderous start to the 2019-20 campaign, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be wary of not letting the squad get too ahead of themselves. Consistency was the one thing lacking in United performances over the recent years and will be key to their fortunes this season.
David de Gea finally kept a clean sheet after a long long wait, thanks to his saves and the efforts of the defence in front of him. Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka were brilliant and should start again in the back-four, with Victor Lindelof and Luke Shaw completing the backline.
In midfield, Solskjaer has hinted at Fred’s inclusion in the coming games, but there is no looking past the duo of Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba for Monday. The Frenchman did not look as convincing against Chelsea but two moments of brilliance saw him bag two assists, showing just how important Pogba is to United’s setup, especially in counter-attacks.
The front four though, might see a bit of change. Daniel James impressed after coming on against Chelsea, grabbing a goal. There are calls for the Welshman to be included and with Wolves fielding wing-backs, the former Swansea City star could be pushed into the starting lineup in an attempt to exploit the space between wing-backs and centre-backs with his pace.
Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial will continue to swap positions on the field during the game and are definite starters against Wolves. The number 10 spot is the only place where there is confusion and a tussle among three options – Andreas Pereira, Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata.
To keep the pressing high, Mata could be ruled out of contention. But, a wildcard option could be Fred, who could be included as a rather withdrawn number 10 to allow Pogba to fill the gap and be the actual number 10 when United go forward. We believe Fred is going to come into the setup soon, but Pereira should be the man starting on Monday, with United still relying on the Brazilian for corners and indirect free-kicks.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; McTominay, Pogba; James, Pereira, Rashford; Martial
1. Manchester United Draw No Bet @ 1.57
2. Anthony Martial Over 2.5 Shots @ 1.57
3. Manchester United to win either half @ 1.72
1. Manchester United win & Clean Sheet – YES @ 3.75
1. Manchester United have failed to win in their last 3 matches against Wolves in all competitions (1D 2L).
2. Wolves are undefeated in their last 8 home games in the Premier League.
3. There has been only one clean sheet recorded between the two teams in the last five Premier League meetings.
4. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is without a win against Wolves in his 3 matches as a manager (2 defeats with Manchester United, 1 defeat with Cardiff).
5. Anthony Martial has scored 49 goals in all competitions so far for the club. He could become the 53rd player to touch the 50 mark for Manchester United.
Player to Watch
This was just one of the many times Luke Shaw left his area unoccupied, forcing Maguire to close down Shaw’s man and potentially exposing Lindelof to a 2v1. Chelsea didn’t exploit these situations but better sides will. Contrastingly, take note of AWB’s positional awareness. pic.twitter.com/KprjAd2z8w
— TC. (@tacticentro) August 13, 2019
With the reinforcements in defence, Luke Shaw is starting to look like the weakest link in the backline now. The left-back found it hard against Chelsea and the duo of Pedro and Cesar Azpilicueta. Against Wolves, he might have to deal with just one identity in the form of Matt Doherty.
But, it will be interesting to see how Shaw is able to fare in the duel against Doherty, especially with the Englishman leaving a lot of space against Chelsea on the wing to be exploited. Maguire rescued him a few times, but Shaw has to step up now if he doesn’t want to be singled out for the wrong reasons.
Wolves 0-2 Manchester United
Wolves started the season rather gingerly. Yes, VAR and the new handball rules saw their goal being disallowed. But, apart from that, there was very little to insinuate that Wolves will take the lead against Leicester.
Manchester United, on the other hand, have shown they can dominate the game without actually dominating the ball, with their pace and precision in counter-attacks a gentle reminder of how the great Manchester United sides used to counter.
Expect another game where David de Gea is called into action numerous times. The Spaniard had to make some routine saves only against Chelsea, but the clean sheet would be an able confidence boost, with de Gea struggling a bit last season. Manchester United seem to be emanating signs of becoming a stable attacking unit and should score against Wolves.
We are going with a win for Manchester United, with de Gea making it two out of two for clean sheets this season.