Last updated & checked: 10/08/2021
One of a select number of all-Premier League ties in the third round of the FA Cup sees Manchester United travel to fellow Europa League contenders Wolves. Both sides are within striking distance of a top-four slot in this season’s Premier League, and could arguably see this evening’s meeting as an unwelcome distraction from duties in the league and in Europe, but Wolves would be delighted to maintain their enviable record against the Old Trafford side – in four matches since their return to the Premier League, Nuno’s side have not a single loss against their illustrious opponent.
For Wolves, perhaps the biggest concern is that, with a season that started in late July and has taken them through 35 senior games thus far, they could probably do with fewer games, not more. With home advantage here, though, and against a United side who are consistent only in their inconsistency, it’s hard to back against the Black Country side.
Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Manchester United Prediction: Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-2 Manchester United
It’s almost impossible to know which Manchester United you’re going to get these days, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side capable of beating local rivals and reigning Premier League champions Manchester City, but also having lost 2-0 at both relegation-curious Watford and out-of-sorts Arsenal. This is a level of inconsistency that would usually be described as “maddening”, but it has become so much a part of the United way that it’s actually oddly soothing. Most recently, the Red Devils looked clueless in losing to Arsenal, so let’s assume they’ll find their groove in time to win this cup tie.
Our recommended tip: >2.5 goals
In the aforementioned four matches these sides have played since Wolves returned to the Premier League, both sides have scored each time, which suggests that defences are unlikely to be on top here. It’s almost impossible to imagine that Nuno will field a full-flavour side here with so many other irons in the fire, and a reshuffled defence may struggle to keep out an attack that can call on Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood and Anthony Martial. Equally, the summer addition of £130million-worth of defence has not resulted in United becoming Fort Knox-like at the back, so Grosvenor’s ¾ odds on there being more than 2.5 goals scored here sound reasonable.
The first meeting between these sides in the 2019/20 season came at Molineux in mid-August, and the visitors looked as though they may have found a way to pluck all three points when Anthony Martial scored from a Rashford pass to give them a first-half lead. On 55 minutes, however, Joao Moutinho found Ruben Neves in space just outside the penalty area, with the almost inevitable result that Neves fired off a long-range shot that ended up in the net. United still had a chance to secure all three points, with Paul Pogba being fouled in the area on 68 minutes – but Pogba’s penalty was saved by Rui Patricio, and the match ended all square.
Top 3 FA Cup Bookies
Players to watch: Ruben Neves & Andreas Pereira
It’s hard to believe that Neves is just 22 years old, as he plays the game with a maturity that would not be out of place in compatriot and teammate Joao Moutinho, who is more than ten years his senior. The Porto product is like a prototype Portuguese playmaker – comfortable receiving the ball in tight spaces, and always able to find a colleague in an advantageous position. As has already been noted, he can hit the target from distance to devastating effect, and that’s a helpful quality in tight games like this.
Born in Belgium, raised in the Netherlands and formed in the Manchester United academy, it makes sense that Andreas Pereira should be a fully-capped Brazilian international. The gifted midfielder has had an interesting and varied career already, and has just turned 24. He needs to be given attacking freedom if he is to flourish in this United side. All too often, he is deployed in a holding role which absolutely does not suit his tendency to go in search of the ball – but if he is freed to play his game, he could be a real asset to his club.