Manchester United host Wolves in an FA Cup replay both sides could do without as the fixtures continue to build up for both sides heading into Wednesday’s game.
A draw between the two sides last weekend saw both managers look to rest players, before introducing the big names in search of a late winner, but with no goals forthcoming, Old Trafford will be playing host to another clash between the two sides.
The extent which either manager decides to rotate awaits to be seen, and with a potential clash with Watford or Tranmere awaiting the winners, the opportunity to progress further in the competition may lure either manager into opting for a slightly stronger line up than in the first meeting.
Manchester United come into the game on the back of a confidence building 4-0 win over relegation threatened Norwich, and Ole Gunnar Solksjaer will be keen to build upon this victory, which may force his hand in selecting a slightly stronger line up. A wasteful Wolves were held by Newcastle on Saturday, and with Nuno Espirito Santo only selecting 19 players throughout the Premier League campaign, the fatigue for his side could force his hand and potentially see the likes of Max Kilman and Ben Ashley-Seal given another opportunity to impress.
Wolves will look to place to onus on Manchester United to come out and play on the front foot, as they look to utilise their counter attacking talents at their disposal. It has been a theme of Santo’s play throughout the season, with his side averaging 48% possession, and with their wing backs and wingers, it is a tactic that they are well suited to utilising. Aided by the fact that they are away from home, Santo will look to set his side up to invite on the United pressure, and look to exploit space in behind, as a number of teams have had joy in doing so against Solksjaer’s side this season, and key to this will be his wingers and wing backs.
Although he will want to rest his tricky winger, an injury to Diogo Jota may force Santo’s hand in starting Adama Traore, and if he does start, he will be fundamental to Wolves’ tactics on Wednesday night. If youngster Ashley-Seal is handed another opportunity to lead the line, the wide areas will become vitally important for Wolves, and who Traore is pitted up against will particularly be of interest.
The dynamic Brandon Williams kept the winger quiet in the first meeting, and with Luke Shaw a doubt with injury, Solksjaer may be tempted to go with the young full back once again, especially with the other option being Ashley Young, who would struggle to keep up with the winger’s pace and energy. Adding in his potential transfer to Inter Milan, it suggests Williams would be the preferred option, especially after another strong performance in the victory over Norwich on the weekend.
However, Manchester United showed their weaknesses to attacks down this flank in the Carabao Cup defeat to Manchester City, and it comes as a result of Marcus Rashford leaving his full back exposed. Rashford is another injury doubt after limping off in the victory over Norwich, and if the English striker is to miss out, Solksjaer could be tempted to place the more defensively adept Dan James on this flank to help his young full back out, thus helping to nullify the threat which Traore would cause, as well as Matt Doherty’s ability to provide support from the wing back areas.
If left defensively exposed, this counter attacking ploy, coupled with the ability to create overloads from Doherty on this flank at right wing back, could see Wolves have joy down this avenue. However, if Raul Jimenez is rested, and Patrick Cutrone having departed to Fiorentina, a lot would rest on Ashley-Seal in the centre forward position for Wolves to get on the end of Traore and Doherty’s crosses, and as a result it could see Wolves struggle to find the back of the net without Jimenez starting. This could force the hand of Santo to start the Mexican striker, and whether he starts will go a long way to determining the attacking threat of Wolves on the night.
It was a mix of experience and youth for United when they took on Wolves last weekend, and Solksjaer could be tempted to opt for a similar line up once again, with youngster Mason Greenwood leading the line. With the impetus expected to be on United to break down Wolves, the role of the attacking midfielder to create in behind the striker will be key, and Juan Mata saw a return to form in the 4-0 win over Norwich. Up against Wolves’ midfield two, there will be space in the central areas to exploit in front of the back three, especially if the defence is sitting deep, so the playmaker role in behind Greenwood will be key to United’s hopes of breaking down a resolute Wolves defence, who proved in the first game that even with a host of changes, the likes of Killman at the back are more than capable of stepping up.
The Spaniard Mata is expected to be rested for the midweek clash, and this attacking role could subsequently fall to Andreas Pereira, who has struggled playing further forward for United so far this season. Other options are the youthful talents of Angel Gomes and Tahith Chong, however the latter struggled when starting on the wing in the last game to make an impact, and Gomes could be given his chance to impress Solksjaer.
The youngster came off the bench against Norwich on the weekend, and in his small cameo managed to create two chances, all be it against a Norwich side already defeated, but the signs were promising for the attacker, and Solksjaer may be tempted to give him an opportunity to impress. However, a lack of experience could hinder United, and Solksjaer may still want to try and start one of either Rashford or Anthony Martial, as they will want pace in behind to try and stretch the Wolves backline, and avoid them being able to push higher and condense the play with a high line.
A lot rests on the line ups of both sides, and the busy period, coupled with differing priorities for both sides, means that a keen eye should be placed on who each sides opt for before making a move on the betting markets.
Another tight affair is expected on Wednesday night, even if both sides are to make a host of changes, and given their own struggles breaking teams down, it is hard to support Manchester United at a best price of 2.0 (Boylesports).
The potential weaker attacking line ups of both sides, and in particular the struggling creativity against sides that set up to frustrate United, means that Under 2.5 goals does appeal, and this is available at a best price of 1.87 (SportingBet).
As alluded to previously, Wolves’ main threat is expected to come down the right flank with Adama Traore, and Solksjaer’s tactics can often leave this flank exposed, meaning the winger should be able to have joy up against Williams or Shaw, which ever is selected as the full back. Looking to use his talent on the break, the Spanish winger looks well priced on Betfair at 3.0 to have a shot on target. In games against Liverpool, Manchester City and Spurs where the counter attacking tactics were utilised in recent weeks, he had 1, 5 and 3 shots respectively, and given the exposure of this flank, he represents an interesting option.