Last updated & checked: 10/08/2021
Wolves returned to the Premier League in late 2018, and since then these two sides have met five times. With a league encounter scheduled for the first weekend of February, these sides must be getting pretty sick of one another; the goalless draw they played out at Molineux in Act One of this FA Cup tie indicated that they may be running out of ways to surprise one another. Yet this tie, one way or the other, must be decided on the night.
United had a decent outing at the weekend, thumping four goals past Premier League bottom side Norwich, but it will concern them that their season has seen them repeatedly pick up a good win and follow it with a shocking performance. Even more concerning is the fact that if they’re due a bad one, they’d prefer it came here than this coming weekend, when they visit Liverpool. For Wolves, this is the 37th game in a season that started back in July. An exit here wouldn’t be the worst thing to happen to them, but they’ll battle anyway.
Manchester United vs Wolverhampton Wanderers Prediction: Manchester United 1-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Having been Manchester United boss for just over a year, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has taken his team to Wolverhampton four times. Although teams who win promotion to the Premier League might still get excited at the idea of going to Old Trafford, it’s fair to say that Wolves would struggle to find much enticing about the idea of playing the Red Devils yet again. This kind of familiarity is likely to engender a tetchy, uninspiring game and it could be another 0-0. However, looking on the bright side, we’d say that a likely reshuffle of the United pack could see both sides finding the net here.
Our recommended tip: Wolves go through
There are a number of players who, in normal circumstances, would likely take the field for United here, but are “touch-and-go” with injuries or illness. Those names include Luke Shaw and Marcus Rashford, and with Liverpool awaiting this weekend, Solskjaer may be loath to risk them here. As a result, the hosts will be fielding a somewhat weakened side here – and that can be crucial in a close game. With United favourites to progress, we’d advise going against the bookies. Unibet have 17/10 that Wolves go through, and we’d back them to do just that.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Nuno Espirito Santo have been through things together. Over the past year, the two men have met probably more often than either one has seen his wife. The last time, of course, was in the initial Third Round clash at Molineux, a match which seemed to bring together two sides who have by now figured one another out. The closest we got to a goal for either side came with both hitting the woodwork – Marcus Rashford’s deflected strike coming back off the post, while Raul Jimenez’s surprise cross-shot beat David de Gea but kissed the crossbar. Those two rare moments of interest failed to spark a dreary game into life.
Top 3 FA Cup Bookies
Players to watch: Juan Mata & Raul Jimenez
Mata arrived in Manchester under David Moyes, and has worked under four different permanent managers at the club. During that time, the Spaniard has never quite established himself as the dynamic playmaker that he was at Chelsea – but his weekend showing against Norwich has thrust him into the conversation as a potential solution for United in the Number 10 role that he himself has always favoured. This match is likely to be tight, and winning it will require a moment of magic – something Mata can provide.
Mexican striker Jimenez is not the most prolific forward around – though he does better on that front than most people credit him for. What he does provide, better than perhaps any other player in the Premier League, is the kind of unselfish forward play that is essential in a counter-attacking team. Playing as a classic target man, Jimenez competes for the ball both aerially and on the ground, and the speed with which he has acclimatised to the English game is perhaps the most impressive part of his stint at Wolves so far.