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Ratings: Fernandes was top notch, De Gea and Elanga impressive; Sancho needs to work harder to start but United need to find a way to avert the errors

Manchester United drew 2-2 with Aston Villa at Villa Park in the Premier League. Bruno Fernandes opened the scoring for United in the sixth minute of the match with Villa’s goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez making a howler with the ball going through his legs. Fernandes put United 2-0 up in the 67th minute of the match with United crossing at the time. However, Jacob Ramsey got a goal back in the 77th minute with Philippe Coutinho equalising five minutes later. United nor Villa were able to find a winner to take all three points. It was better for United, but simple mistakes cost them once again.

United started in fine fettle against Villa, seemingly discovering something different since the two teams last met five days ago. Rangnick’s side pressed Villa from the start, winning a free-kick which Alex Telles took, taping the ball slightly with Bruno Fernandes then running into the box with the ball and shooting towards the keeper, who had an absolute howler with the ball ending up going into the back of the net, just like Massimo Taibi. Villa did not like the goal going in with the keeper upset after what happened. Mason Greenwood, Anthony Elanga and Edinson Cavani all looked in good form and up for the challenge.

United had seven shots on goal in the first half, four of those on target, scoring one goal, also having 55% of the ball. Villa, having just 45% of the ball, had just four shots on goal, three of which were on target with David De Gea once again stepping up to make the difference for Unite with his saves. Lucas Digne, on loan from Everton was the first player to be booked, seeing yellow in the 27th minute of the match – his fifth of the season but he will not face suspension as it was his first for Villa. Nemanja Matic saw yellow four minutes later (31) and will need to watch himself in the second half of the match.

United played a hard-fought 45 minute at Villa Park, going into the break in the lead with a lot of work to be done. Villa will be seeking to at least get an equaliser, knowing what they did against United on Monday evening, despite two goals being ruled out for a foul and an offside. Villa fans will be hoping to see Philippe Coutinho at some point in the second half, as the commentary team kept talking about as if he was some kind of superstar who has been pulling it out of the bag for the past three years. Villa have done well trying to get back into the match during the first half, but it just did not happen for them.

At the start of the second half, Villa made their first substitution after Ezri Konsa could not continue after suffering an injury in the first half. He was replaced by Kourtney Hause in the 46th minute of the match. United had done some good work at the start of the second half, mostly attacking play but they were unable to double their lead, which I feel is something they must do in order to get the win in this match, which is much-needed. In the 67th minute of the match, after a Villa error, Fred got the ball, ran towards the goal before playing it to Fernandes, who scored his second of the match and seventh of the season.

In the minutes before Fernandes scored the second goal of the match, he was fouled by Douglas Luis, who appeared to step on him, whether an accident or not, we shall see. The Portuguese magnifico seemed to be in some pain as he went off for treatment. Of course, he got his own back by scoring minutes later, putting United 2-0 up and with a great chance of winning this match. Villa brought Coutinho on in the 68th minute, replacing Morgan Sansom who looked dejected on the bench after coming off. Villa had some positive periods but they were still very much out of the match until Jacob Ramsey got a goal back in the 77th minute.

Rangnick made his first substitution in the 78th minute with Jadon Sancho replacing Anthony Elanga, who was a largely positive presence in the team against Villa. Just a minute before, Villa made their third substitution with Carney Chukwuemeka replacing Danny Ings, whose impact was not the best against United this time. Coutinho scored the equaliser for Villa in the 82nd minute of the match, unmarked running towards the goal. Raphaël Varane tried to cut the cross out but could not reach it before it connected with the Brazilian. De Gea was unable to make the save. United had more work to do in order to win this match.

Rangnick made a late double substitution in the 89th minute with Donny van de Beek and Jesse Lingard replacing Greenwood and Fernandes. There were four minutes added at the end of the match with United needing a goal to win the match. That goal never came but looking at the usual suspects on Twitter, who were so sure that a change of manager would change everything for United, it is quite satisfying watching them come up with excuse after excuse to avert them from any kind of responsibility for their clearly wrong opinions on everything. United will face Brentford on Wednesday, which is a must win match.

Manchester United

1 David De Gea

Impressive but ends up frustrated. Made some great saves to deny Buendia and Digne in the first half and got the better of Ramsey, before he eventually scored. Coutinho's goal was not something he could get to based on the closeness of the finish. From a win to a draw in five minutes will have been tough to take.

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20 Diogo Dalot

Good first half performance. He was the player that was targeted and Villa, largely through Digne, got the better of him time and time again. He will learn from it and prosper eventually.

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2 Victor Lindelof

Improvement. He was rusty against Villa on Monday, after a layoff. He had a largely positive match but for the two goals, he was not in his position, which seems to be a trend with him.

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19 Raphael Varane

Magnificent defender to have at United. It United had two of him, they would be in with a chance of retaining their leads. He was flawless for the majority of the match but in five late second half minutes, United succumbed and saw a win snatched away from them.

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27 Alex Telles

Villa got little against him. The Brazilian got an assist for Fernandes' first goal. Elanga did a lot of work ahead of him, which enabled him to concentrate on defending, which he did well with Villa not getting much past him.

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31 Nemanja Matic

Balanced. Gate United a safe defensive minded player to protect the defence, which seemed to work in the first half and for some of the second. He tired out in the end though - which is why United need a defensive minded midfielder sooner rather than later. He was booked for a cynical challenge, which seemed to stop him from getting heavily involved because he didn't want to be sent off.

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17 Fred

Mixed performance. When United were on top n the match, Fred seemed to be in high spirts but when United were poor, especially in the last 20-odd minutes, Fred was poor too. United need a midfielder that can drag his teammates through matches. He got an assist for Fernandes' second goal.

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11 Mason Greenwood

Constant threat. Villa saw a lot of him and he could have scored United's second goal in the first half by Martinez came out and made the save. His decision-making needs more improvement but he will get there. Replaced nu Van de Beek in the 89th minute.

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18 Bruno Fernandes

MOTM. Opened the scoring in the sixth minute, completed his brace in the 67th minute. Seems to be hated, even by some United supporters, who should be elated that he stepped up and grabbed this match by the neck.

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36 Anthony Elanga

Impressive. It is certainly a nod to the future. He is better than Rashford at this time and I was glad to see him start. His pace is alarming and he is determined enough to find his feet. He was replaced by Sancho in the 78th minute.

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21 Edinson Cavani

High work rate. The Uruguayan always puts in a shift and sometimes it does not work. He chased back time and time again. He is a player that should have the ball played to him in advanced areas more often but United's midfield is not good enough to control matches like that.

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Substitutes

25 Jadon Sancho

Replaced Elanga 78'. Clearly not doing enough to be picked as a starting player. Needs to find a way to break into the team and not make his signing look like another mistake - which has happened a lot at United in the past eight years.

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34 Donny van de Beek

Replaced Greenwood 89'. Could have scored the winner for United. Needs to be doing more in training to get into the starting XI. With the midfield depleted today, he should have been a shoe in, but was on the bench again.

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14 Jesse Lingard

Replaced Fernandes 89'. Had five minute with added time and just did not seem to be interested. Doubt he will leave this month and hopefully United will not give him a new contract. It is time to let him leave.

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Goals: Jacob Ramsey 77′, Philippe Coutinho 82′; Bruno Fernandes 6′, 67′

Assists: Philippe Coutinho 77′, Jacob Ramsey 82′; Alex Telles 6′, Fred 67′

Manchester United: De Gea; Dalot, Lindelof, Varane, Telles; Matic, Fred; Greenwood (Van de Beek 89′), Fernandes (Lingard 89′), Elanga (Sancho 78′); Cavani

Substitutes Not Used: Heaton, Henderson; Jones, Maguire; Mata

Bookings: Lucas Digne 27′; Nemanja Matic 31′, Bruno Fernandes 46′

Written by John Walker

Confirmed XI: Cavani, Elanga, Greenwood and Fernandes start against Villa; Maguire, Jones, Van de Beek and Sancho on the bench

Manchester United will travel to Villa Park this evening where they will take on Aston Villa in the Premier League just five days after their 1-0 victory in the third round of the Emirates FA Cup. Ralf Rangnick’s side did not manage to win convincingly but Scott McTominay’s header and Fred’s delivery was all that was needed to get the victory, despite the two disallowed goals for Villa, which Steven Gerrard will have moaned about, like the true Scouse whiner that he is. United need to be wining this match, getting some points on the board in the Premier League and more importantly, getting into some kind of form.

At the time of writing, United sit seventh in the Premier League with 31 points from 19 matches, winning nine times, drawing four times and losing six times. United have two matches in hand over most of the teams above them, the Brentford match will be played next week with the Brighton and Hove Albion match still to be rearranged. Villa sit 14th in the league with 22 points from 19 matches, winning seven, drawing once and losing 11 times – which is dire form for the club. Villa have lost their last three matches in all competitions and will need to start getting results or the could find themselves dragged into a relegation battle.

Manchester United:

De Gea;

Dalot, Lindelof, Varane, Telles;

Matic, Fred;

Greenwood, Fernandes, Elanga;

Cavani

Substitutes:

Heaton, Henderson; Jones, Maguire; Mata, Lingard, Van de Beek; Sancho

Aston Villa:

Martinez;

Cash, Konsa, Mings, Digne;

Ramsey, Luiz, Sanson;

Watkins, Buendia, Ings

Substitutes:

Steer; Targett, Young, Hause, Hayden; Coutinho, Iroegbunam, Chukwuemeka; Archer

United and Villa have played a total of 53 matches in the history of the Premier League. United have won 37 matches, drawing 12 with Villa winning the remaining four matches. United have scored a total of 97 goals, winning seven penalties and scoring five of them. Villa have scored 32 goals, winning one penalty and scoring it. United have kept a total of 27 clean sheets with Villa keeping a total seven. The discipline between these two sides is not the best with United players being shown 77 yellow cards and three red cards whilst Villa players have been shown 74 yellow cards and four red cards. United need this win after the Wolves defeat.

Villa and United both have history with many players wearing the shirts of both teams through the years. Axel Tuanzebe is the most recent, although his loan spell has now ended with him heading to Napoli for the rest of the season. Ron Atkinson, a former United manager, played for both United and Villa. Peter Schmeichel also played for Villa a year after leaving United. Eric Djemba-Djemba, Mark Bosnich, Dwight Yorke and Ashley Young, who left Villa for United, then Inter Milan and re-signed for Villa this summer. Tom Cleverley was once loaned to Villa, Steve Bruce is a former manager of theirs and Roy Keane an assistant manager.

Written by John Walker

Predicted XI: [4-3-1-2] Jones and Varane to partner in defence? Ronaldo and Cavani leading the attack? Van de Beek, Fred and Sancho in midfield?

Manchester United will travel to Villa Park on Saturday evening where they will take on Aston Villa in the Premier League just five days after their 1-0 victory in the third round of the Emirates FA Cup. Ralf Rangnick’s side did not manage to win convincingly but Scott McTominay’s header and Fred’s delivery was all that was needed to get the victory, despite the two disallowed goals for Villa, which Steven Gerrard will have moaned about, like the true Scouse whiner that he is. United need to be wining this match, getting some points on the board in the Premier League and more importantly, getting into some kind of form.

At the time of writing, United sit seventh in the Premier League with 31 points from 19 matches, winning nine times, drawing four times and losing six times. United have two matches in hand over most of the teams above them, the Brentford match will be played next week with the Brighton and Hove Albion match still to be rearranged. Villa sit 14th in the league with 22 points from 19 matches, winning seven, drawing once and losing 11 times – which is dire form for the club. Villa have lost their last three matches in all competitions and will need to start getting results or the could find themselves dragged into a relegation battle.

Previous meetings with Aston Villa and their connections with Manchester United.

United and Villa have played a total of 53 matches in the history of the Premier League. United have won 37 matches, drawing 12 with Villa winning the remaining four matches. United have scored a total of 97 goals, winning seven penalties and scoring five of them. Villa have scored 32 goals, winning one penalty and scoring it. United have kept a total of 27 clean sheets with Villa keeping a total seven. The discipline between these two sides is not the best with United players being shown 77 yellow cards and three red cards whilst Villa players have been shown 74 yellow cards and four red cards. United need this win after the Wolves defeat.

Villa and United both have history with many players wearing the shirts of both teams through the years. Axel Tuanzebe is the most recent, although his loan spell has now ended with him heading to Napoli for the rest of the season. Ron Atkinson, a former United manager, played for both United and Villa. Peter Schmeichel also played for Villa a year after leaving United. Eric Djemba-Djemba, Mark Bosnich, Dwight Yorke and Ashley Young, who left Villa for United, then Inter Milan and re-signed for Villa this summer. Tom Cleverley was once loaned to Villa, Steve Bruce is a former manager of theirs and Roy Keane an assistant manager.

Here is my predicted starting XI to face Aston Villa in the Premier League at Villa Park on Saturday evening…

Goalkeeper: David De Gea

David De Gea is still the main player in the squad that is trying to do his best whilst accommodating his teammates mistakes. If the defence was much better, United would be getting the wins they need to break back into the top four this season. The Spanish goalkeeper has endured a tough time at United, especially last season when Dean Henderson stepped forward to challenge him. It seemed like it could have been the end of the road at United for De Gea, but this season he has been virtually faultless in goal and hopefully he will continue to strive to reach that goal as United look forward to finding their feet post-Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

It is important for United to use the voices of the long-standing players at the club as those with weaker attitudes are found out and given the chance to turn things around, or be shipped out of the club. United need to get back on the road to the glory days as it will soon be a decade since they last won a league title and with well over £1 billion spent post-Sir Alex Ferguson, that is something of an embarrassment given that the people running the club have relatively no football knowledge or experience. Rangnick’s role after being the interim manager should give United a club above the playing level – perhaps it will all work out eventually?

Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Phil Jones, Raphael Varane, Alex Telles

United need to find a way of strengthening the defence this season, at least until the summer when there is some stability with a new permanent manager who will set up his new team. Harry Maguire has been injured for the last few matches, despite giving an interview about what has happened at the club which almost seems like some of the players are not interested in performing for the club – which is what it looks and feels like. Luke Shaw is suspended for this match, so he will get a little break. Diogo Dalot suffered a cut on Monday evening against Villa in the FA Cup, so there is a chance that he will not start this match.

If that is the case, Aaron Wan-Bissaka might get a chance to redeem himself after some poor performances and an injury layoff. On the left side, Alex Telles will get a chance to earn his place again after Shaw returned from an injury layoff himself. In the centre of the defence, Raphael Varane is a definite as he seems to ooze class and is calm in the centre of defence. Victor Lindelof can be problematic at times, so providing he is ready after suffering a knock which kept him out on Monday, Phil Jones could partner the Frenchman, having done so well together when he made his senior return from a a knee injury that lasted around two years.

Midfield: Jadon Sancho, Fred, Donny van de Beek

United’s midfield is perhaps the main problem area in the squad at present. Despite a number of players in these positions, it just does not seem to work all that well. Paul Pogba started the season in fine form but an injury sustained many months ago has derailed his season – which is probably his last at the club being that he is out of contract in the summer. It was suggested that it could be another four or five weeks before he even returns to training, so it seems unlikely that any reliance will be put upon him this season. Donny van de Beek has been fit for the majority of the season, yet he rarely gets picked – which may have to change this weekend.

With Scott McTominay suspended for this match, an a loss for United based on his form in the last few matches, Rangnick is going to have to make a gamble that does not result in Nemana Matic playing 90 minutes. Fred is likely to start in place of McTominay and Van de Beek should also start with Jadon Sancho, providing he has recovered from a thigh injury, being the third midfielder, although playing a wide position in the three, able to get forward on the attack and help defend when Villa are on the attack. Rangnick will probably stick with his 4-2-2-2 formation, but it seems to change throughout matches anyway, so who knows.

Attacking Midfield: Bruno Fernandes

Bruno Fernandes has started to find his feet playing in the 4-2-2-2 formation, which does not suit him all that much being that he is regularly used in a wide position, which he is not used to. I think playing in a 4-3-1-2 formation suits him more and puts him in his favoured position just behind the strikers, where he is able to assist and score goals himself. The Portuguese magnifico has five goals and nine assists so far this season, scoring his last goal against Arsenal in the Premier League at the start of December, under the management of Michael Carrick. He needs to start getting back into the swing of things this season.

There is much debate about whether Fernandes can perform on the same stage as Cristiano Ronaldo, because they don’t see to click for Portugal, but the duo respect each other and can learn to play together at club level, which will benefit Portugal also. Fernandes was the stand out player last season and still has more goals and assists that most of his teammates going back two years when he signed for the club. It seems that Fernandes has become the player that we were told Paul Pogba was, which is quite funny as the Pogba supporters will tell you that Fernandes is the problem at the club, which seems very agenda driven. Pogba has been a failure.

Forwards: Edinson Cavani, Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo was missing with a hip injury against Villa on Monday evening and should be back in action for the Premier League encounter at Villa Park. With 14 goals and three assists so far this season, he is United’s top scorer and the player most likely to score a goal, providing there is creativity, which is a major struggle at United this season, despite the number of creative players in the squad. United, at least on paper have one of the best squads in the league this season but the underperforming nature of the squad is the real problem. Ronaldo recently spoke out about the problems and he could drag his teammates out of the mire.

Edinson Cavani should start with Ronaldo. The duo can provide space for each other and on their day, they can be a handful for the defenders in the league. Cavani has just two goals so far this season, scoring 17 last season, and I am sure he will start performing at the same level as last season, aiming to get something from what will be his last season at the Old Trafford club. Some suggest that Mason Greenwood should be starting ahead of either Ronaldo or Cavani, but when he has played, he looks out of form and will need to work on returning his form in order to be started ahead of two legends of the game.

Substitutes: Tom Heaton; Victor Lindelof, Diogo Dalot; Jesse Lingard, Nemanja Matic; Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood, Amad Diallo, Anthony Elanga

United will be able to name nine substitutes on the bench, using just three of them in the Premier League. Rangnick had the chance to use five substitutes against Villa in the FA Cup on Monday evening, not using all of them for whatever reason. This time he has little choice. Dean Henderson was not on the bench on Monday and I think that will be the same for this match with former Villa goalkeeper Tom Heaton taking his spot on the bench, as was the case on Monday. The defence could be depleted with just Victor Lindelof and Diogo Dalot on the bench, providing the latter is able to play following the laceration to his ankle.

In midfield, another area were there is a problem with players, Jesse Lingard and Nemanja Matic could be available, should they be needed. Of course, Rangnick could call on reinforcements from the academy to take positions on the bench to give him some more variety in terms of what players can offer from the bench. In attack, which is where United are particularly strong this season, not necessarily in form, the likes of Marcus Rashford, who needs to severely improve his form, Mason Greenwood, Amad Diallo, who could leave for a loan spell this month and Anthony Elanga, who should now be ahead of Rashford – could all be available.

Written by John Walker

Preview: Beating Villa is something that United need to be doing. No more apologies, just fight, desire and determination

Manchester United -v- Aston Villa

Premier League

Villa Park, Birmingham

Saturday 15 January 2022, KO 17:30 GMT

Referee: David Coote Assistants: Gary Beswick, Nick Hopton

Fourth Official: Chris Kavanagh

VAR: Mike Dean Assistant VAR: Dan Robathan

Manchester United will travel to Villa Park on Saturday evening where they will take on Aston Villa in the Premier League just five days after their 1-0 victory in the third round of the Emirates FA Cup. Ralf Rangnick’s side did not manage to win convincingly but Scott McTominay’s header and Fred’s delivery was all that was needed to get the victory, despite the two disallowed goals for Villa, which Steven Gerrard will have moaned about, like the true Scouse whiner that he is. United need to be wining this match, getting some points on the board in the Premier League and more importantly, getting into some kind of form.

At the time of writing, United sit seventh in the Premier League with 31 points from 19 matches, winning nine times, drawing four times and losing six times. United have two matches in hand over most of the teams above them, the Brentford match will be played next week with the Brighton and Hove Albion match still to be rearranged. Villa sit 14th in the league with 22 points from 19 matches, winning seven, drawing once and losing 11 times – which is dire form for the club. Villa have lost their last three matches in all competitions and will need to start getting results or the could find themselves dragged into a relegation battle.

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

Aston Villa 1-0 W, Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-0 L, Burnley 3-1 W, Newcastle United 1-1 D, Norwich City 1-0 W, Young Boys 1-1 D

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

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

Aston Villa – Recent Form, Goals Scored and Assists: LLLWLW

Manchester United 1-0 L, Brentford 2-1 L, Chelsea 3-1 L, Norwich City 2-0 W, Liverpool 1-0 L, Leicester City 2-1 W

Goals: 5 – Ollie Watkins, 4 – Cameron Archer, Danny Ings, 3 – Anwar El Ghazi, John McGinn, 2 – Ezri Konsa Ngoyo, Jacob Ramsey, 1 – Leon Bailey, Emiliano Buendía, Matthew Cash, Frédéric Guilbert, Kortney Hause, Tyrone Mings, Matt Targett

Assists: 3 – Emiliano Buendía, Anwar El Ghazi, Douglas Luiz, 2 – Leon Bailey, Danny Ings, John McGinn, Ashley Young, 1 – Matthew Cash, Carney Chukwuemeka, Frédéric Guilbert, Tyrone Mings, Jaden Philogene-Bidace, Matt Targett, Ollie Watkins

Previous meetings with Aston Villa and their connections with Manchester United.

United and Villa have played a total of 53 matches in the history of the Premier League. United have won 37 matches, drawing 12 with Villa winning the remaining four matches. United have scored a total of 97 goals, winning seven penalties and scoring five of them. Villa have scored 32 goals, winning one penalty and scoring it. United have kept a total of 27 clean sheets with Villa keeping a total seven. The discipline between these two sides is not the best with United players being shown 77 yellow cards and three red cards whilst Villa players have been shown 74 yellow cards and four red cards. United need this win after the Wolves defeat.

Villa and United both have history with many players wearing the shirts of both teams through the years. Axel Tuanzebe is the most recent, although his loan spell has now ended with him heading to Napoli for the rest of the season. Ron Atkinson, a former United manager, played for both United and Villa. Peter Schmeichel also played for Villa a year after leaving United. Eric Djemba-Djemba, Mark Bosnich, Dwight Yorke and Ashley Young, who left Villa for United, then Inter Milan and re-signed for Villa this summer. Tom Cleverley was once loaned to Villa, Steve Bruce is a former manager of theirs and Roy Keane an assistant manager.

Team News: McTominay and Shaw suspended for United, McGinn suspended for Villa. United will also be missing Pogba but sweating on Jones, Ronaldo, Sancho, Dalot and Martial.

Eric Bailly (AFCON) is missing because of his participation in the Africa Cup of Nations. Paul Pogba (Thigh) is the only injured player for this match. Scott McTominay and Luke Shaw are both suspended for this match, so Rangnick will need to find a solution. Phil Jones (Calf/Shin), Cristiano Ronaldo (Hip) and Jadon Sancho (Thigh) all missed Monday’s match and have a 75% chance to feature this weekend. Diogo Dalot (Ankle) suffered a laceration on Monday and has a 50% chance of featuring whilst Anthony Martial (Knee) has just a 25% chance of facing Villa. United will need to ensure they have the right balance in the squad for this match.

Bertrand Traore (AFCON) and Trézéguet (AFCON) have both been ruled out because of their participation in the Africa Cup of Nations. Leon Bailey (Thigh) and Marvelous Nakamba (Knee) have both been ruled out due to injury. John McGinn is suspended for this match due to amassing five yellow cards in the Premier League. Former United captain, Ashley Young (Ankle/Foot) is only at 50% fitness and could miss the match against his former club. Villa will have a similar squad to the one which faced United on Monday evening, which seemed to play very well against them. This is a threat that United will need to avert, or face another poor result.

Predicted Starting XI: Ronaldo and Cavani to lead the attack against Villa with Fernandes behind them? A midfield three of Van de Beek, Fred and Sancho could work? Jones and Varane in defence?

This match is important for United. Anything less than a win is going to make it harder to succeed this season. It is already going to be tough to break back into the top four and stay there as the clubs above United seem to be in much better form at this stage of the season. United’s players really owe something to the supporters as they have stuck by the club and this is the result of sticking up for the players – who are getting paid massive sums of money to play a game that they love. Tweeting after bad results has become tiresome and I would rather not read that as these players try to absolve blame and say how much better they will be next time.

It seems likely that David De Gea will keep his place in goal with Dean Henderson still waiting for a chance to show what he can do. In defence, with Luke Shaw suspended, Alex Telles could be back in at left-back with Aaron Wan-Bissaka at right-back with Diogo Dalot a doubt because of the cut he received on Monday evening. Raphaël Varane should keep his place but Phil Jones should get a chance to cement his place in the team. With Scott McTominay suspended, Donny van de Beek, Fred and Jadon Sancho should start in a three-man midfield with Bruno Fernandes playing ahead of them. Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani should lead the attack.

Match Prediction: Beating Villa is important for United. That said, the fight, desire and determination will need to return otherwise this club will continue the decline that has already been prevalent this season.

Earlier this season, United lost 1-0 to Villa in the Premier League at Old Trafford. Knocking Gerrard’d side out of the Emirates FA Cup has seen United head in the right direction after the shock defeat to Villa, who have lost 11 of their 19 matches played this season. United need to ensure they win this match but they are never easy at Villa Park. Last season, United won 2-1 at Old Trafford with Anthony Martial and a Bruno Fernandes penalty cancelling out Bertrand Traore’s equaliser. But this United side, at the moment in time, it not working as well as it should and the fight, desire and determination has long gone and needs restoring.

At Villa Park last season it was a 3-1 victory to United with Traore opening the scoring for the home side and Fernandes, Mason Greenwood and Edinson Cavani scoring to get three points in the bag, doing the double over the Birmingham club. This United will need to turn up against Villa on Saturday, ensuring that they get the win, don’t end up being overrun and stop the club from doing the double over them in the league this season, which would be a big form of embarrassment. United should be winning these matches easily, not allowing them to be overrun by the same club who tend to flirt with the Championship time and time again.

Manchester United 2-1 Aston Villa

Written by John Walker

Opinion: Toothless Manchester United have a plethora of problems but the midfield is still the most obvious

Manchester United put on a woeful performance against Wolves on Monday night. Ralf Rangnick was looking for a more complete performance alongside three points, however what he got was a pitiful display and his first Premier League defeat. Going into the match there was actually a cautious feeling of optimism around the club, as a favourable run of fixtures lay ahead for United and the top four beckoned. 

Unfortunately, it quickly became abundantly clear that this optimism was misplaced as United were lethargic and sloppy for the first half, eventually succumbing to a brilliant Wolves winner late in the second. The result leaves United in seventh, four points adrift of the top four albeit with a game in hand.

On an overall dreary evening at Old Trafford, perhaps it was Scott McTominay’s poor performance that was most indicative of the state that United find themselves in as of late. McTominay had put in a monstrous MOTM performance last time out against Burnley yet looked lost in midfield just days later. As a result, Wolves created a massive number of chances in the first half, posting the most shots against a United side in a half for over two years. 

Rumoured United target Ruben Neves and his Portuguese compatriot Joao Moutinho dominated the midfield battle, while United’s Nemanja Matic looked a million miles off the pace. This was the second game in which Cristiano Ronaldo has ever captained United, this time in the absence of Harry Maguire, however Ronaldo was far from inspiring himself. 

Most frustrating for United was the amount of awful, misplaced passes and inability to retain possession, Luke Shaw subsequently stating that the players felt as though there were limited passing options. If anything, this result, and performance will serve as a major reality check for Rangnick and the size of the job on his hands.

Most worryingly for both Rangnick and United fans will be the lack of any evidence of Rangnick’s pressing style, which we’ve seen just once before in the first 30 minutes against Crystal Palace- for a manager that has lauded the idea of control, there has been a distinct lack of it in recent weeks.

Midfield Issues:

It can feel like United’s lack of quality in midfield is highlighted on a weekly basis at this point, but the sad truth is that it is consistently the major area letting the team down. United failed to invest over the last two seasons in a top holding midfielder and the team has suffered for it, relying on Fred and McTominay who are just not cut out for it more often than not. Against Wolves it was evident that Matic is long past his sell by date, and wasn’t even showing maturity when on the ball- often losing possession cheaply. 

Aside from the two in midfield who started against Wolves, United only have Fred as another option and arguably Paul Pogba and Donny van de Beek, although they are more attackingly inclined. It’s been a feature for so long now that United will be exposed defensively through the midfield and pressing fullbacks, while simultaneously lacking the quality in the middle to transition the ball effectively from defence to attack.

It is easy to blame the midfield consistently despite there being other issues at hand, but the reality is the midfield area is pivotal in a league full of such quality. 

United have deadly forwards in the likes of Ronaldo, Edinson Cavani and Jadon Sancho, however it’s difficult to suggest they’ve been supplied with a good level of service this season. It may be true that some of United’s forwards don’t press enough or fit the way United have tried to play, but it would be silly to discard players of such quality to compensate for a poor midfield. 

There’s almost a disconnection about the United team between the defence and front four, an issue that several formation changes haven’t solved and something Rangnick is yet to crack. The underlying truth that is apparent now and has been for some time is that United have to invest big money in the midfield over the next two windows if they want the team to function properly, it’s just too much of a root cause for other issues and should have been addressed long ago.

Underperforming Fullbacks:

Another major issue that United have had to contend with this season is a major decline in the performances of both Luke Shaw and Aaron Wan Bissaka. It was probably expected that Luke Shaw’s bout of world class form from last season would be unsustainable due to burnout, but a drop of such a high degree in performance was certainly not expected.

Shaw, who was so good at linking with Pogba and United’s wingers last season, has really struggled to impose himself both going forward in matches and defensively. 

The same can be said about Wan Bissaka, who has never impressed offensively and unfortunately looks to have regressed this season. There is no doubt about Wan-Bissaka’s quality defensively and particularly in one v one situations, but frequent mistakes and a lack of offensive improvement means time is running out for the right-back to prove he is the long-term option for United. 

These subpar performances have meant that both players have been rotated out in recent weeks under Rangnick, meaning a massive improvement is needed if they are to be trusted again and be good enough for United to be competitive in every game.

Poor Mentality/Squad Harmony:

One of the most concerning facets of United’s poor performances as of late is the negative body language that has emerged from several of the team’s key players. Some of this can be traced back to early in the season, particularly Ronaldo’s frequent shows of frustrations when the team has lost, but most recently the body language of the likes of Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho has not been good either. 

Rashford made an appearance last night in what was an utterly ineffective cameo, while Sancho played the whole game with little confidence and his head down. To compound United’s woes, Luke Shaw’s interview after the game was a damning insight into a fractured team; chastising the lack of effort and commitment, while also insinuating that the team “wasn’t all together”

There have been reports of unrest in the dressing room lately, but for a player to come out with an interview like that is very concerning for the manager and club. Whatever the issue is in the dressing room, every player needs to leave their ego at the door and grasp the responsibility of playing for Manchester United.

It’s been a difficult season for United as a whole, but it’s important to remember we are only halfway through. United still have so much to play for – the top four, Champions League and the FA Cup, meaning it’s vital the players and manager sort out this run of poor performances and find a solution before the season gets away completely. 

As the new year is brought in, so too does the January transfer window open, perhaps help in the midfield can be acquired from there, but the squad and club as a whole simply have to raise the standards back to an acceptable level if anything meaningful is to be achieved this season.

Written by Sam Wilson

Ratings: Phil Jones can hold his head up high after almost two-year injury layoff; the rest were not up to the standard in Wolves defeat

Manchester United were beaten 1-0 by Wolverhampton Wanderers at Old Trafford in the Premier League. It was a match that saw Phil Jones return to the centre of the defence almost three weeks shy of a two-year gap since his last first team fixture because of injury. However, despite Bruno Fernandes hitting the crossbar in the second half and Cristiano Ronaldo scoring an offside goal, United seemed to lack major inspiration in this match. It was Joao Moutinho who found the winner in the 82nd minute of the match which gave the struggling side three important points in the league in this outing.

United did not start so well against Wolves at the Theatre of Dreams. Despite Wolves not playing a match since their 0-0 draw with Chelsea on the 19 December, they seemed in good spirits as they tried to get the better of United from the first minute of the match. United seemed lackadaisical in attack, defence and in the midfield and seemed to struggle to string a pass together, which was a major worry. The team that started, despite being balanced, was unable to get the better of their visitors. There would be a problem for Rangnick to sort out in the match to guide his team to victory, or even avoid a defeat.

United had just five shots in the first half of the match – one of those on target which was not good enough for a team like United, who were playing at home. Wolves got the better of United in possession, shots, shots on target, also having more touches of the ball in the first half. David De Gea was United’s saviour of the first half, making some good saves to deny the opposition from scoring. Scott McTominay seemed to be fired up for this match, showing his aggression and determination for United to succeed. So many so-called supporter of the club hate him for playing well, also suggesting that he has no ability, but he matched Paul Pogba last season.

It was 0-0 at the end of the first half with both teams needing to dig deep to get something in the second half. There were no substitutions for their team at the break with both managers seemingly trying to see what they can gain from the start of the second half before changing anything. United seemed to be playing the same game at the start of the second half with Wolves more likely of getting ahead, which is not how it should be. Some of these United players need a shock to the system. McTominay became the first player booked in the 48th minute, followed by Luke Shaw eight minutes later – meaning his missed he league match at Villa.

United brought on Bruno Fernandes for Mason Greenwood in the 60th minute of the match and United seemed to gain something from that change with them looking more fluid. The Portuguese midfielder hit the crossbar minutes later which looked like he was about to score the first goal of the match. Cristiano Ronaldo scored minutes later, but he was ruled offside and United were back to trying to find a goal. Wolves then burst into life with United weathering the storm, at least so far. Adama Traore replaced Trincao in the 66th minute for Wolves and he was part of their burst to life in the attack.

United made their second substitution in the 75th minute, just after Nemanja Matic was booked, Marcus Rashford replaced Jadon Sancho, who has a largely positive game for United, seemingly starting to find his feet at the club – but still in search of his first goal under Rangnick’s rule. In the 81st minute of the match, Wolves brought on Fábio Silva for Raul Jimenez which seemed to start something – resulting in Joao Moutinho opening the scoring a minute later. It looked like this could be the first defeat for United under Rangnick and a victory at Old Trafford for the first time in around 40 years for Wolves.

United lacked any kind of inspiration against Wolves. The defeat was deserved and it shows an immense lack of respect by these players. They are lauded as heroes, get a great wage, have a job that they (apparently) love doing and are treated like superstars. Perhaps that is what is wrong with this game. Too much money involved and the people getting the money tend to become detached from the real world and instead of taking any of the blame themselves, point the fingers at other people, who may not be the problem. The same thing tends to happen at United from David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and now Rangnick.

United will have a long week before facing Aston Villa in the third round of the Emirates FA Cup. Granted it will be a rest for these players, who have not exactly had a tough period of matches but they are all millionaires so they will deserve it (insert sarcasm here). Rangnick will need to find some answers as it seems that nothing has changed since Solskjaer and Michael Carrick left compared to when he arrived. United have lost yet another home game in the Premier League that they should have won. It was not a tough match and seems like some players are not putting in the kind of effort that is expected and if that is the case, they should be ashamed.

Manchester United

1 David De Gea

The Spanish goalkeeper made a superb save to deny Neves. He seemed to be full of confidence as made other saves, which perhaps were not so direct in becoming goals. He had little chance with Moutinho's effort which won the match for Wolves. Could do with adding leadership to his game and commanding his back four.

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29 Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Seemed to play well in the first half, seeing a few crosses evade the attacking players. The second half was poor to say the least. Dalot should have started. Wan-Bissaka needs to impress to win his place back. He's showing too many negative aspects of his game which is starting to show he's not suitable for United.

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19 Raphael Varane

The Frenchman was solid at times and was better against Jimenez than he was against Newcastle's attacking players. This defence needs some steel though.

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4 Phil Jones

First match for the first team in almost two years. His passing was spot on. He has been blamed for the defeat but some organisations seem to forget this is a team game. The midfield gave the ball away after his clearance. That's not his fault. He was the better player for United and he did not deserve this defeat.

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23 Luke Shaw

Got done over by Traore which resulted in the winning goal for Wolves. His attacking was not as good as it was against Burnley. United need him in good form all of the time.

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11 Mason Greenwood

His attacking was bright in the first half and for spells in the second. Perhaps had too much left for him to achieve. Replaced by Fernandes on the hour.

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31 Nemanja Matic

There was some positivity to his game but more negatives. United need to bring in a much younger defensive minded midfielder, and soon. Seemed to show his age as the game grew on. He should not be relied on this much.

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39 Scott McTominay

Started after being the MOTM against Burnley. Had some desire to win but lacked the instinct and footballing intelligence to achieve that. Moutinho and Neves got the better of him at times and his booking should have resulted in a substitution.

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25 Jadon Sancho

Seemed to fit the measure of United's attack, but also looked a player wide from achieving things. It was not a poor performance just from him., but he needs to find consistency. Replaced by Rashford in the 75th minute.

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21 Edinson Cavani

Spent much of the game dropping back when he should have had creativity behind him. It was just not meant to be in this match. Should maybe have been substituted?

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7 Cristiano Ronaldo

Scored but it was offside. Made a mistake that Jimenez could have scored from. United's strike force should be better than this.

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Substitutes

18 Bruno Fernandes

Replaced Greenwood 60'. Had the chance to score for United but hit the crossbar. Did kind of inspire United to become better on his introduction.

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10 Marcus Rashford

Replaced Sancho 75'. Could have had a goal, but of late he's not been in any sort of form, hence why he's not starting. Needs to buck up his ideas to win his place back with fine form, but seems to be struggling to do just that.

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36 Anthony Elanga

Replaced Wan-Bissaka 84'. Came on very late into the match. Could have been a threat with his pace and skill if brought on earlier. Could not get anything from this game.

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Goals: Joao Moutinho 82′

Assists: N/A

Manchester United: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka (Elanga 84′), Varane, Jones, Shaw; Greenwood (Fernandes 60′), Matic, McTominay, Sancho (Rashford 75′); Cavani, Ronaldo

Substitutes Not Used: Henderson; Dalot, Telles; Lingard, Fred, Van de Beek

Bookings: Scott McTominay 48′, Luke Shaw 56′, Nemanja Matic 74′; Jose Sa 90+4′

Written by John Walker

Confirmed XI: Ronaldo and Cavani lead the attack against Wolves; Jones starts in defence – Maguire not involved

Manchester United will face Wolverhampton Wanderers at Old Trafford in the Premier League this 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:

De Gea;

Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Jones, Shaw;

Greenwood, Matic, McTominay, Sancho;

Cavani, Ronaldo

Substitutes:

Henderson; Dalot, Telles; Lingard, Fred, Fernandes, Van de Beek; Rashford, Elanga

Wolverhampton Wanderers:

Sa;

Kilman, Coady, Saids;

Semedo, Neves, Moutinho, Marcal;

Podence, Jimenez, Trincao

Substitutes:

Ruddy; Hoever, Ait-Nouri, Bueno; Jordao, Dendoncker, Cundle; Silva, Traore

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.

Written by John Walker

Predicted XI: [4-4-2] Fernandes in the centre of the midfield could create a deep-lying playmaker role; wingers need to help Ronaldo and Cavani

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.

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.

Here is my predicted starting XI to face Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Premier League at Old Trafford on Monday evening…

Goalkeeper: David De Gea

David De Gea is the best goalkeeper at the club this season, based on current form. He does what a United goalkeeper needs to be doing, despite the number of goals conceded this season. United seem to have found some kind of form since the sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the departure of Michael Carrick – I am not scapegoating either of them – it is just what tends to happen. There is always a honeymoon period under a new manager and a few weeks or months later, you can see the kind of structure the new manager will implement and either results continue or there is a period of time where things are bad again.

At the moment, United may be uninspiring but in the first five matches of Rangnick’s reign of the club, they have conceded just three goals, keeping two clean sheets. To include that in Carrick’s interim period too, over his three matches in charge, three more goals were conceded with one clean sheet. United are in effect unbeaten in their last eight matches, scoring 13 goals, conceding six goals and keeping three clean sheets. It is not something that is going to propel them to the top of the Premier League, but it is a key indication that some problems have been ironed out, which will end up being fully solved in a period of time.

Defenders: Diogo Dalot, Raphael Varane, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw

Despite conceding a few goals since Solskjaer’s sacking, United have been more defensively astute at times, which still needs more control and resurgence. Diogo Dalot has taken the chance that he has been given post-Solskjaer and lastly become the first-choice right-back at the club based on his ability to attack. His defensive abilities will need to be built on but with the formations United have been playing in recently, an attacking fullback, ideally on both sides is required. Luke Shaw also returned to his best form against Burnley, seemingly turning a corner on the poor form and injury which saw Alex Telles claim the position.

Both Dalot and Shaw should be starting against Wolves as that should set United up nicely, at least in an attacking sense in defence. Harry Maguire has been scapegoated as the problem in the defence this season which was partly because of his form – which is no guarantee for any player. The modern fan seems to compare actual players which their pixel version on computer games, which seems a strange things to be doing. Maguire was missed at he end of last season and probably the same people were worried about that. Raphael Varane has since returned from injury and will find form again and he and Maguire should both start against Wolves.

Midfield: Bruno Fernandes, Scott McTominay

United’s midfield is one of the major problems that needs to be solved at the club. There is no defensive steel in the midfield and there are many problems based on the quality of the players at the club currently. Gone are the days of having players like Bryan Robson, Roy Keane, Nobby Styles and Paul Scholes, although United have a player similar in quality to Scholes in Bruno Fernandes. The Portuguese magnifico was suspended for the Burnley match and will be back in contention to win his place back in the squad against Wolves. With a 4-2-2-2 or 4-4-2 formation with wingers, Fernandes is wasted out wide.

There is nothing stopping Fernandes from playing in a number six role, seemingly as a deep-lying playmaker, which is what Scholes used to do for United. Of course, the wingers will need to be at their best to accommodate this as with Fernandes in an advanced position, he was more open to scoring or assisting the goals. Alongside him against Wolves could be Scott McTominay, who scored against Burnley and could have had more than one goal. Used as a defensive player by Jose Mourinho, McTominay has the ability to be the other player in the midfield, maybe until the problem in the midfield has been solved.

Wingers: Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford

United’s wingers, played in either a 4-2-2-2 formation, which is effectively similar to a 4-4-2 formation with wingers as opposed to left and right midfielders. There are distinguishing factors that separate the two formations, but United would be better in a 4-4-2 with wingers than the 4-2-2-2 as with the players currently in the squad, the 4-2-2-2 formation has not been working as well as it could with a few different players in the squad. Jadon Sancho had a tough start to his career at United, which saw many or the rabble who moaned about him not signing for the club in 2020 criticising him and suggesting that he was another flop.

Again, it seems to be the same people who compare a real life player to one forms of many pixels on a computer game, seeking the same form – which is not likely to happen because of ‘real life’. Sancho scored two goals under Carrick and could have had a third against Burnley, which was adjudged to be a Ben Mee own goal, which matter not as United ended up winning that match – which is all that really matters. Marcus Rashford should occupy the left-wing role against Wolves as his time on the bench should have shown him what he needs to be doing to find his form again. If this works, it could be great for United.

Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo, Edinson Cavani

Ever since Edinson Cavani returned from injury, United seemed to have better stock in the attacking ranks. Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 14 goals and three assists so far this season, with Cavani on two goals, meaning the duo have contributed 20 goal scoring actions this season, which with a combined age of 70 is a good rate. Age is just a number, or so they say. United should be playing two forwards from now on as they will help United get back up to speed. Granted, there will need to be rotation at times and with Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial (for now) and Anthony Elanga – there are many options there.

Ronaldo is the man to find the goals and keep United scoring in matches and his presence in the attacking ranks is second to none. But when the service is not there, Ronaldo struggles and it is shown by his actions. Keeping Ronaldo happy and United scoring have the same solution – creativity, hard work and determination. Cavani is the same, if there is no service, he is an isolated figure but the pair of them can create space for each other as they have a great standard of finishing. Ronaldo is lethal in most aspects of attack with Cavani specifically lethal in headed goals. He scored a few of them last season. This duo is world class.

Substitutes: Dean Henderson; Phil Jones, Aaron Wan-Bissaka; Jesse Lingard, Fred, Nemanja Matic, Donny van de Beek; Mason Greenwood, Anthony Elanga

United can name nine substitutes on the bench in the Premier League, using just three of them despite Rangnick’s support for five substitutes in the league. This is something that smaller clubs argue against because of the advantage of the bigger clubs. Perhaps they want the bigger clubs to have a player less in the starting XI’s to give them more chance? I would expect to see Dean Henderson on the bench as he seems to have been told that he’s going nowhere this month, despite being linked with an exit. Phil Jones and Aaron Wan-Bissaka could be available in defence, should they be needed.

In midfield, which is a problem area for United could see the likes of Jesse Lingard, Fred, Nemanja Matic and Donny van de Beek on the bench, although the latter has been a figure of ever-presence on the bench, not being granted many minutes n the pitch, which seems to have continued from Solskjaer’s spell, into Carrick’s and now Rangnick’s. In attack, which is an area that is of strength for United this season, Mason Greenwood and Anthony Elanga could be available. Anthony Martial, despite his unhappiness, is still out with a knee injury and not likely to feature in this match and maybe any others if he is allowed to leave this month.

Written by John Walker

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

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

Ratings: McTominay earned his stripes in Burnley victory; Shaw back on form, Ronaldo scored 14th goal this season – Sancho looks like he’s finding form

Manchester United beat Burnley 3-1 at Old Trafford in the Premier League, hitting back for their dreadful 1-1 draw with Newcastle United at the start of the week. United end 2021 on a high with three more points in the bag following a season riddled with problems. Ralf Rangnick will be happy with his undefeated start. Scott McTominay opened the scoring in the eighth minute of the match with what seemed like a Jadon Sancho goal coming twenty minute later – which was then confirmed as a Ben Mee own goal. Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 14th goal of the season with Aaron Lennon scoring a consolation three minutes later.

United started the match finely against Burnley, seeking to nail them down and dominate the match. It was a clear indication that the players recognised that Monday’s draw with Newcastle United was not good enough. United took the lead through Scott McTominay, scoring his first goal of the season, assisted by Cristiano Ronaldo in the eighth minute of the match with a find finish on goal. There will be some that still criticise the player but his passion and work rate are second to none at times. There is a reason why Jose Mourinho, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and now Rangnick have all trusted the Scotland international.

United continued to attack Burnley, who had lost many first team players through coronavirus and injury of late. Just twenty minutes after the opening goal, United had scored a second. Jadon Sancho, assisted by Luke Shaw was the player that seemed to score the goal but it was eventually given as an own goal by Ben Mee. It was still a second goal for United – and after Monday’s result, it will be well received. Rangnick seemed happy on the sidelines with his side going 2-0 up before half an hour had passed. It seemed that United were in the mood to attack and score goal, even if they had ‘technically’ only scored one so far this evening.

In the 35th minute of the match, Ronaldo got himself on the scoresheet for the 14th time this season, which shows just how successful he has been as a player – even at the age of 36. McTominay had a shot saved in the split second before Ronaldo scored tapping his shot with his right foot from the centre of the box. United were 3-0 clear and looked set to win another three points in the Premier League, which were much needed this season, especially at a time where United wanted to break into the top four. The clean sheet was short-lived though as Aaron Lennon scored what seemed a consolation goal three minutes later.

There were no changes for either side at the start of the second half but United would need to ensure they kept this lead as Burnley would be seeking to fight back, seeing the weaknesses of this United team against Newcastle, who were in a worse position than them in the league this season. Burley made their first substitution in the 58th minute with Jack Cork replacing Dale Stephens. United made their first substitution eight minutes later with Raphael Varane replacing Eric Bailly, who seemed to receive a knock in the minutes before coming off – which did not look all that good knowing his history of silly injuries.

Before the substitution, United had a good chance through Sancho with McTominay getting the ball and hitting towards the goal, just heading over the crossbar. Edinson Cavani had a good shot on goal around the 70th minute, seemingly hitting Wayne Hennessy in the face with the Welshman being praised for a great save – which I’m not sure he knew all that much about. Matej Vydra replaced Lennon for Burnley in the 74th minute of the match, Burnley’s second substation of the game. In the 81st minute, United made a second substitution with Diogo Dalot replacing Mason Greenwood.

Burnley made their final substitution in the 84th minute of the match with Erik Pieters replacing Dwight McNeil. It seemed clear that no more goals were coming from either side and that United were just playing to keep the lead and the three points up for grabs in the game. Rangnick made his final substitution in added time with Fred replacing Ronaldo. It was a good win for United, who now have a few days rest before their next match. The busy month of December has been completed, despite two matches being postponed because of coronavirus. January is going to be just as busy, even with a week’s rest between the first matches of 2022.

United will welcome Wolverhampton Wanderers to the Theatre of Dreams on Monday evening in a 17:30 kick off – more working in the dark for United. A week later they welcome Aston Villa to Old Trafford in the third round of the Emirates FA Cup with United coming up against Steven Gerrard for the first time seeking to remain in the draw for the fourth round of the domestic competition. Rangnick will be positive following his undefeated start at United but that first defeat will always be waiting like it is for any manager in this game. The January transfer window will be open in little more than 24 hours (at the time of writing this). Hopefully United have some plans.

Manchester United

1 David De Gea

Had a quiet night in goal against Burnley. Was beaten once and could have dealt with it to a point - maybe even kept a clean sheet. It turned out the goal did not do much to take away United's win.

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29 Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Did well until that pass back to De Gea, which ended up giving Burnley a corner. He was not an upgrade on Dalot, who has to be the main choice in this position right now.

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3 Eric Bailly

He seemingly had to travel back to Manchester ahead of this match despite being on his way to the African Cup of Nations. Seemed to make a mistake for Lennon's consolation goal and came off in the 66th minute with what looked like an injury - he was replaced by Varane. Lennon dispossessed him for the goal, which I thought was made too easy for the Burnley forward.

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5 Harry Maguire

Had his say in many aerial duels against Burnley, so some confidence is being built with him again. Wood made him uncomfortable and Lennon got the best of United's defence for is goal.

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23 Luke Shaw

Great to see him back in some sort of form - which will get better. He was proactive on the left, seemed determined to attack - having been the best attacking outlet for the club in 2021. Perhaps his form is back for 2022 and he will be resurgent for United?

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11 Mason Greenwood

Played well at times and was unlucky not to get something from this match. It is great to see him getting minutes on the pitch again but his form requires some improvement, which will come in time. He was replaced by Dalot in the 81st minute of the match.

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31 Nemanja Matic

Made little impact in the match but Matic usually does what he does outside of the spotlight. He could have stopped Lennon

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39 Scott McTominay

MOTM for me for this game. Opened the scoring with a fine finish in the eighth minute of the match (his first goal since February) and could have scored more goals. He seemed up for the challenge of Burnley and ended the game on a high with another three points in the bag. Sir Alex Ferguson was watching down on him from the directors box with pride etched on his face.

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25 Jadon Sancho

Was sometimes sloppy with the ball but created something and seemed to score the second goal of the match, which later became a Mee own goal. He will be pleased with his efforts though and it looks like he's starting to find his feet at the club and showing his ability on and off the ball.

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21 Edinson Cavani

Seemed to be playing too deep at times but created some space doing that. Could have capitalised on a great goal against Newcastle on Monday but his Hennessy in the face. He will be wanting to make waves in the next match he plays.

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7 Cristiano Ronaldo

Got an assist and a goal in the first half, seeing him with 14 goals and three assists so far this season - 17 goal contributions. Not bad for a 36 year old who is considered past it. He missed a great chance in the first half, skying his effort. Should have done much better there.

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Substitutes

19 Raphael Varane

Replaced Bailly 66'. Steady in defence after replacing the Ivorian. Great to see him back and getting minutes under his belt, which will settle him after an injury spell.

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20 Diogo Dalot

Replaced Greenwood 81'. Made a late cameo playing in an attacking position on the right flank. Did what he needed to do on the night.

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17 Fred

Replaced Ronaldo 90+3'. Came on at the death with United seemingly trying to run down the clock.

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Goals: Scott McTominay 8′, Ben Mee 27′ o/g, Cristiano Ronaldo 35′; Aaron Lennon 38′

Assists: Cristiano Ronaldo 8′

Manchester United: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Bailly (Varane 66′), Maguire, Shaw; Greenwood (Dalot 81′), Matic, McTominay, Sancho; Cavani, Ronaldo (Fred 90+3)

Substitutes Not Used: Henderson; Telles; Lingard, Van de Beek; Rashford, Elanga

Bookings: N/A

Written by John Walker

copyright: JW