It’s quite something to look at the way Manchester United fans feel now compared with how they felt the last time they faced Wolves in a league game. Back in September, the Red Devils struggled to a draw at Old Trafford, deserved to lose, and came out of the game feeling pretty pessimistic about the future of their 2018/19 season. As Joao Moutinho struck for the visitors, his close nominal twin in the home dugout Jose Mourinho indicated that United’s attack needed to be much better. More than seven months on, that improvement has happened. And all United needed to do was sack Mourinho.
Under new boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the Manchester side are a different proposition. They look sharp in attack, have moved level on points with Spurs, and hold a decent chance of Champions League qualification. With OGS’ caretaker role being made permanent last week, the supporters are showing signs of actual optimism for the first time in a long while. However, that optimism could be shaken if the side don’t manage to do something they’ve spent 180 minutes of this season trying and failing to achieve – beat this tough, resourceful Wolves side.
Ole’s at the wheel – but how’s his driving?
While the appointment of Solskjaer is not a big surprise – particularly once Real Madrid reappointed Zinedine Zidane and took the juiciest possible cherry off the “Possible new Manchester United manager” tree – its timing may have been a little odd. In the two games before the board put a new contract in front of him, Solskjaer led United to a 2-0 loss at top-four-spot rivals Arsenal, and then saw them knocked out of the FA Cup at Wolves (that match ended 2-1, but only due to a 95th-minute consolation goal).
United did get back to winning ways at the weekend, but it was the definition of “winning ugly”. Watford came to Old Trafford and gave the home side a real fright, having the better of possession and creating chances. However, the three points have ended up in Solskjaer’s pocket rather than with Javi Gracia, so it counts as a bounce-back. At the same time, Wolves were losing 2-0 at Burnley. So it’s evident that despite a very positive season back in the top flight, Nuno Espirito Santo’s men are vulnerable. It will take a big performance, but we’d back United to win here, at Evens with Betfred.
A nail-biter in prospect
Since Day One, Wolves’ key selling point in the Premier League has been their durability – they’ve made themselves hard to beat by being organised and smart in possession. Manchester City drew with them, they knocked Liverpool out of the Cup, and they’ve beaten Spurs at Wembley. They know their way around a pitch, and can keep their heads in a tight contest. This will be one of Solskjaer’s toughest challenges yet, and he’ll need to find a way to unpick a determined and tight-knit XI.
Looking at the 2-0 defeat at Arsenal and subsequent Molineux cup exit, it would be tempting to say that Solskjaer has been found out at the highest level, but it’s also worth remembering that the Norwegian planned United’s 3-1 win over PSG in Paris to a T. Knowing that the French side had a tendency to self-destruct in Europe, United’s manager encouraged his players to hold off for much of the second half before really going for it in the closing 20 minutes. PSG started making avoidable errors and handed the visitors a late away-goals winner.
It would be unsurprising if, against a team known for their counter-attacking, OGS took a more reserved approach again and, as such, we wouldn’t expect either side to go hell for leather here. Dafabet have odds of 11/10 on this match being level at half time, and we’d take those.
Something Rash to decide the game?
In scoring the opening goal against Watford at the weekend, Marcus Rashford notched his tenth league goal of the season – the first time he has achieved this tally in the Premier League. His achievement was then matched later in the game by Anthony Martial, and the two are likely to be heavily relied upon here. The pace they offer might be the best antidote to Wolves’ well-structured defence, and either of them is capable of winning a match with a moment of magic.
It’s Rashford who seems to find the perfect moment to score, and he’s had the happy knack of grabbing key goals for United since his Premier League debut, when he scored twice against Arsenal in a 3-2 win. He was at it again in Paris, nervelessly striking from the penalty spot in time added on. With odds of 12/5 at Betway that he’ll score here in a United win, we’d be confident in backing him to be influential again.
Bets of the Day
United to win (Evens, Betfred); Draw at Half Time (11/10, Dafabet); Rashford scores and United win (Betway, 12/5).