Manchester United welcome Wolverhampton Wanderers to Old Trafford on Saturday afternoon. It is one of three Old Trafford matches left this season with four matches remaining altogethers. Erik ten Hag’s side are seeking a big comeback after back-to-back defeats in the Premier League but had had a significant break between matches for only the second time this season. United will need to start getting points on the board to secure UEFA Champions League next season.
Wolves have not had a bad season – currently sitting in 13th place with 40 points, it seems certain that they will be playing in the Premier League next season. It seems unlikely that they will be challenging for European football next season so finishing the season on a high is what will be expected from Julen Lopetegui. He will understand that United will be seeking the exact same thing and will be ready for that. The last two clubs United have played were ready.
I would expect Wolves to be ready too. United have many problems this season and goals has become a big one for them. United seem to struggle to find chances and with injuries at the tail end of the season, it has not been the greatest time for United. But there are exactly five matches left this season and then it is the summer and time to continue the rebuild. United will be in a much better position for the upcoming pre-season tour and then the 2023/24 season.
Predicted Manchester United Starting XI – 4-2-3-1
Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Lindelof, Shaw;
Antony, Fernandes, Garnacho;
Goalkeeper: De Gea
David De Gea has 15 Premier League clean sheets this season with four more matches to play. Should he keep another clean sheet this weekend, it will give him 16 clean sheets with the closest contender on 13 – Alisson of Liverpool and Nick Pope of Newcastle United. Liverpool have just three matches left, meaning Alisson could reach 16 if he kept three more clean sheets. Newcastle have four matches left with Pope able to reach 17 clean sheets. De Gea has a good chance.
The Spanish goalkeeper is reportedly close to signing a new contract at United this summer but there have also been reports or the opposite happening, so we are no closer to a solution for the problem. There has also been speculation linking United to a number of other goalkeepers, which is also a positive because the position needs to be solved at some point in the not too distant future. United are in a good position at this stage of the season, which is all that matters.
Tom Heaton and Jack Butland will be seeking to make appearances in the latter stages of the season which could happen with De Gea possible being rested at some point for the Emirates FA Cup final as all players will need to be at the top of their form heading into a possible big match for Manchester City, who could be on to a possible treble of the Premier League, Emirates FA Cup and UEFA Champions League this season, which would be a terrible thing to happen.
Defenders: Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Lindelof, Shaw
United’s defence suffer a major blow a month ago losing both Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez in the same match against Sevilla in the UEFA Europa League. But half of those troubles are over with Varane returning to the squad ahead of this match, which comes at a great time for United. His experience will be great at the back for the remainder of the season – it could all work out well at the right time for United and Ten Hag. Something has to work well now.
In the centre of the defence, Varane and Victor Lindelof should partner, which could be good considering the form of the Swedish international in the last few matches. United also have the option of Harry Maguire, who will be on the bench and Luke Shaw, who could be back to playing in his favoured left-back position to come inside, which should be enough for the next few matches. Of course, it would have been so much better if Martinez was not injured.
In the fullback positions, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw could start as both players compliment United so much with only one of them receiving the plaudits required. Wan-Bissaka has come in through the back door this season after seemingly going to be a casualty but he has dominated in him position. Shaw has played different roles but is much more effective on the left flank than Tyrell Malacia or Diogo Dalot – with both players options should there need to be.
Midfield: Casemiro, Eriksen
United’s midfield has been pretty decent this season but fatigue, suspension and injury have all played a part, which has been pretty frustrating to be honest, but that is part and parcel of being a football fan. The arrivals of both Casemiro and Christian Eriksen this season were great for United and they have both walked into the midfield and dominated and been missed when they were not playing. United will need to recruit to give them decent understudies as they will be needed.
Casemiro has not been all that positive in the last few matches combined but did more against West Ham United last weekend, despite the defeat. The Brazilian cannot do it all by himself and he will need his teammates to step up and be counted, which has sometimes lack at stages this season. The former Real Madrid defensive midfielder has been great for United but has got himself a reputation with refereed, which could become a problem. Despite that, he’s great.
Christian Eriksen has really turned back the clock this season. He has strived to achieve for United and despite not playing a part in it, has a Carabao Cup winners medal this season and could be returning to the UEFA Champions League and contesting for the Emirates FA Cup final at the end of the season. This has been a great positive for United and long may that continue. There are options though with Fred and Marcel Sabitzer – who have both been positives too.
Attacking Midfield: Antony, Fernandes, Garnacho
The attacking midfield positions are those where the goals have been coming from this season, with Marcus Rashford playing on the left-wing. But as he looks set to miss this match, although he could feature on the bench, someone else will need to step up and shine. Antony has been a positive this season but he needs to push for more goals or assists given the talent that he has. That said, it has been a positive debut season for him in the Premier League so far.
Bruno Fernandes is the captain on the pitch and the guy that should wear the armband permanently. He has been a creative revelation for United since he arrived in January 2020 but at this moment in time, he will be disappointed in himself. He has been a frustrated figure of late and will want to achieve all the plaudits this season. United have a lot of play for before the end of the season – also contesting Manchester City for the Emirates FA Cup too.
Alejandro Garnacho has been on the sidelines for a number of weeks following an ankle injury, which was devastating for him and United as it came at a time whereby he was in form. He did return to the bench last weekend but did not feature for United. After a further week of training, he will be raring to go and with Marcus Rashford likely missing out, he should be starting on the left-wing as I believe he has more to offer than Jadon Sancho at this stage of the season.
Anthony Martial started pre-season in great form, got injured and still managed to score a few goals between injuries this season. However, at this point of the season, the Frenchman seems uninterested and in need of a new start elsewhere – but will that happen? For the remainder of the season, Martial needs to play football and either show some fight or sign his transfer papers because we cannot have him like this for another season. He’s a problem.
United need a top striker. One that can score goal and create them. Having good hold up play and a great work rate. There are only a few of these attributes at the club this season and not one player has all of them. That is such a shame for a club like United who need to be banging in the goals to win matches. The United of years gone by will look at this United and wonder what happened. The Glazers. The family who care about cashing in rather than the success of the club.
Marcus Rashford can play in this position as can Wout Weghorst. But Rashford is a doubt for this match – I put him on the bench just to fill the bench with some attacking players.Weghorst is not penetrative as a striker and seems to struggle to find the back of the net, which is a major worry. He is a decent lad and loves it at United but in this form, it would be a waste to keep him. Perhaps he can look back at his time at United and see it was not all that great?
Substitutes: Butland; Maguire, Dalot; Sabitzer, Fred, Pellistri; Rashford, Sancho, Weghorst
United will have nine players on the bench against Wolves on Saturday and be able to utilise five of them throughout the match. United will need to be at the top of their game to get the points needed to work towards securing their top four finish in the Premier League this season. I would expect to see Jack Butland on the bench once again, getting closer to making his debut for United before he returns to Crystal Palace in the summer. I sure he will get at least one appearance.
In the defence, with Raphael Varane back, it gives United some options. Harry Maguire and Diogo Dalot could be the only defensive players on the bench against Wolves but that should be enough give that Luke Shaw is still going to be on the pitch and could come into the centre if required. Ma cel Sabitzer, Fred and Facundo Pellistri could be the only midfielders in the bench in this match – but that should be more than enough for United to take on Wolves.
In attack, Marcus Rashford, if he has some fitness, could be involved on the bench, unless he comes through a late fitness test and starts the match. Jadon Sancho and Wout Weghorst could be the only other attacking players on the bench for this match, which is not all that great for United and shows that something is needed from the club in the summer to change that. Ay least one new striker should come to the club in the summer, another midfielder and a defender
Written by John Walker