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Preview: Wolves could be a challenge but a 4-4-2 formation utilising the wingers could work for United

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Manchester United -v- Wolverhampton Wanderers

Premier League

Old Trafford, Manchester

Monday 3 January 2022, KO 17:30 GMT

Referee: Mike Dean Assistants: Darren Cann, Eddie Smart

Fourth Official: Robert Jones

VAR: Andre Marriner Assistant VAR: Gary Beswick

Manchester United will face Wolverhampton Wanderers at Old Trafford in the Premier League on Monday evening, the second of a triple header at the Theatre of Dreams which will end with Aston Villa facing United in the Emirates FA Cup a week after this match. United have had a turbulent last few months with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer being sacked and Michael Carrick leaving the club. Ralf Rangnick has not had the start he wanted with matches against Brentford and Brighton and Hove Albion being postponed because of the coronavirus. United will need to start winning these matches to get into a better league position at this stage of the season.

United beat Burnley in their last match, scoring three goals – one of them was an own goal by Burnley. Scott McTominay scored his first goal of the season and Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 14th which was not a perfect match for United but it does not matter when three goals were scored and all three points were in the bag. United have a busy January coming up but they do have a seven day break between this Wolves match and the Emirates FA Cup third round clash with Aston Villa with Steven Gerrard returning to the Theatre of Dreams for the first time as a manager in the Premier League.

Manchester United – Recent Form, Goals Scored and Assists: WDWDWW

Burnley 3-1 W, Newcastle United 1-1 D, Norwich City 1-0 W, Young Boys 1-1 D, Crystal Palace 1-0 W, Arsenal 3-2 W

Goals: 14 – Cristiano Ronaldo, 5 – Bruno Fernandes, Mason Greenwood, 3 – Marcus Rashford, 2 – Edinson Cavani, Fred, Jesse Lingard, Jadon Sancho, 1 – Own Goal, Harry Maguire, Anthony Martial, Scott McTominay, Alex Telles, Donny van de Beek

Assists: 9 – Bruno Fernandes, 7 – Paul Pogba, 3 – Cristiano Ronaldo, Luke Shaw, 2 – Mason Greenwood, Victor Lindelof, Nemanja Matic 1 – Fred, Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford, Raphael Varane

Wolverhampton Wanderers – Recent Form, Goals Scored and Assists: DWLLDD

Chelsea 0-0 D, Brighton and Hove Albion 1-0 W, Manchester City 1-0 L, Liverpool 1-0 L, Burnley 0-0 D, Norwich City 0-0 D

Goals: 4 – Hwang Hee-Chan, 3 – Raúl Jiménez, Romain Saïss, 2 – Daniel Podence, 1 – Conor Coady, Leander Dendoncker, Morgan Gibbs-White, Maximilian Kilman, Rúben Neves, Trincão

Assists: 2 – Rayan Aït-Nouri, Leander Dendoncker, Raúl Jiménez, Daniel Podence, Fábio Silva, 1 – Ki-Jana Hoever, Rúben Neves, José Sá

Previous meetings with Wolverhampton Wanderers and their connections with Manchester United.

United and Wolves have played a total of 15 matches in the history of the Premier League. United have won nine matches, drawing three with Wolves winning the remaining three matches. United have scored a total of 24 goals, winning three penalties and scoring two of them. Wolves have scored ten goals, winning no penalties. United have kept a total of seven clean sheets with Wolves keeping a total of two in these matches. United players have been shown a total of 23 yellow cards and one red cards with Wolves players shown a total of 23 yellow cards and one red card. United will need to be at the top of their game to win this one.

There have been a few players to have played for both United and Wolves. In the 1973/74 season, Jim McCalliog was sold to United, making 38 appearances and scoring seven goals for the club. Scott McGarvey was loaned to Wolves in the 1984/85 season with Darren Ferguson being sold to the club in he 1993/94 season. Paul Ince, who had previously played for United, signed for Wolves in the 2002/03 season, the same season that Denis Irwin left, making 529 appearances, scoring 33 goals. Darron Gibson was loaned to Wolves in the 2007/08 season and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson was loaned to the club during the 2016/17 season.

Team News: United could be without three first team players for the visit of Wolves, who could be missing a total of seven first team players – despite not playing for 15 days.

Paul Pogba (Thigh) and Victor Lindelof (Coronavirus) are the only players which seem to have been ruled out of the visit of Wolves on Monday evening. Although, if Lindelof tests negative, there is a chance he could be involved but his fitness would be lacking having not trained with his teammates. Anthony Martial (Knee) has a 50% chance of featuring but it seems more realistic that the Emirates FA Cup clash with Aston Villa would be more likely for him to find involvement. Bruno Fernandes will return following a one-match suspension for the victory over Burnley.

Willy Boly (Calf), Pedro Neto (Knee), Rayan Ait Nouri (Groin/Hip/Pelvis), Hee-Chan Hwang (Thigh), Jonny Castro Otto (Knee) and Yerson Mosquera (Thigh) hae all been ruled out of the visit to the Theatre of Dreams on Monday evening. Fabio Silva (Coronavirus) has been out of action due to testing positive for Covid-19 but a lack of first team training leaves him with a 50% chance of being involved against United. Wolves have not played since the 0-0 draw with Chelsea on the 19 December so could find themselves struggle having not had a competitive match for the last 15 days. United could have an advantage here and they need to win.

Predicted Starting XI: Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani to lead the attack? Bruno Fernandes to play in the centre of the midfield wit Scott McTominay? Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho on the wings?

Rangnick will need to cope with fatigue in his squad for this match and will have to rotate some players in his squad. At the time of writing, three players looked likely to miss the visit of Wolves on Monday evening but United have a good squad to cope with those absences. The victory over Burnley saw United play a better grade of football compared to the 1-1 draw with Newcastle United days four days prior. Although, the second half performance was not the best but United did the work in the first half to seal the victory. This match could be a tough one for United and they will need to be at the top of their game to take the points.

I would expect David De Gea to continue on goal for the first match of 2022, based on his current form, which leaves him undroppable. Diogo Dalot should return to the right-back role with Luke Shaw keeping his place at left-back. Harry Maguire will continue to start for United and Raphael Varane should start alongside him, having started on the bench against Burnley. Rangnick will probably continue with that 4-2-2-2 formation, which is in effect a 4-4-2 with wingers. Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford should start this match with Scott McTominay and Bruno Fernandes in the middle. Both Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani lead the attack.

Match Prediction: United did the double over Wolves last season and have already beaten them this season so getting three points in the bag is what United will need to be doing. Rangnick has not lost yet…

Last season, United did the double over Wolves, winning 1-0 at Old Trafford on the 29 December 2020 with Marcus Rashford, assisted by Bruno Fernandes scoring the only goal of the match. At the end of last season at the Molineux, United won 2-1. Anthony Elanga, assisted by Daniel James opened the scoring in the 13th minute of the match. Nelson Semedo, assisted by Fabio Silva equalised in the 39th minute of the match. United won the match in added time at the end of the first half with Juan Mata scoring from the penalty spot. It was not the end of the season that United wanted, confirming second place in the Premier League.

This will be the second time that United have faced Wolves this season. United won 1-0 at the Molineux with Mason Greenwood, assisted by Raphael Varane in the 80th minute of the match. United have not been in the best form this season and will be seeking to gain the points to propel them back into the top four in the Premier League. United still have two matches to play after the Brentford and Brighton and Hove Albion matches were postponed. Rangnick will need to solve the problems in the squad sooner or later and with the January transfer window vastly approaching, there is no time like the present.

Manchester United 2-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers

Written by John Walker

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copyright: JW