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21st September, 2018

Preview | Manchester United vs Wolves

Let the Good Vibes Continue.

It feels like an age since Manchester United have played at home, doesn’t it? I’m sure some of us have tried to erase the last time we stepped out at Old Trafford though, so maybe that’s a contributing factor. Either way, the Reds return to home territory to face Wolves in the Premier League on the back of a much improved run of form with three wins on the bounce bringing back the confidence for the squad and fans alike.

All talk of a crisis has been put to one side now, and the focus is purely to keep winning a game at a time and attempt to claw back the early lead that Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City have already forged. Especially in the cases of Chelsea and Manchester City, who have previous form in this respect, it’s crucial not to let them pull too far ahead too early on and render the season over by the new year. It seems almost unfathomable to be talking about ‘keeping the pressure on’ those above, but until the aforementioned trio start to drop points, that has to be the mentality.

Thankfully, momentum is on our side with the performances gradually picking up in quality. The 3-0 win away to Young Boys in the week was exactly the sort of professional performance that we’d expect of both a Manchester United side, and a Jose Mourinho side. The defence has also looked a lot steadier with Mourinho crediting that defensive stability to a better togetherness and level of communication throughout the whole side, rather than attributing the improvement to finding an established centre back pair in Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof.

That being said, it would be a surprise if Mourinho made any attempts to prove that it isn’t solely an improvement from Smalling and Lindelof that has steadied the ship by swapping either of them out. Phil Jones and Eric Bailly are both available for selection but we should probably expect things that aren’t broken to remain untampered with, at least in the centre back department. Oh, and the goalkeeping department too, obviously. David de Gea’s break is likely to come soon, but it will probably come in the midweek for the Carabao Cup tie with Derby County – not against Wolves.

What will be changed is the right back selection. The United boss has already stated that Diogo Dalot, despite his hugely impressive debut that featured some very promising attacking play and enough stepovers to make Phil Neville proud, will rest for the Wolves game and return fresh to face Derby. Mourinho clearly has faith in the Portuguese youngster, even calling him one of the best right backs in the world already, but is choosing to ease him into life at Manchester United. Hopefully Luke Shaw will get the chance to continue his return to prominence with the opportunity to rest him and give Ashley Young minutes being just around the corner on Tuesday.

Rotation up front was the order of the day during midweek, partly because of Marcus Rashford’s extended domestic absence and a need to give Anthony Martial some sorely needed minutes. Although the Frenchman managed to get on the scoresheet and showed his usual glimpses of brilliance, his overall display was one that smacked of a rusty player. Alexis Sanchez sat the whole game out whilst Martial got some game time under his belt so don’t be surprised if the Chilean comes back in to replace him on the left hand side. Tuesday night at Old Trafford is another chance for Martial to get a full run out and get up to pace – his goal against Young Boys certainly doesn’t guarantee him retaining his place.

Another beneficiary of a rest from rotation on Wednesday was Jesse Lingard. Presumably it wasn’t injury related as there was no mention of it from the manager, although he was never asked about his absence. If he is fit he will definitely be in contention to return on the right with the license to float inside although this is also arguably a game to use Juan Mata in with a lot of tough tests coming up as we go into October. Through the middle, Romelu Lukaku is integral to the spine of Mourinho’s United side and will almost certainly get the nod up front, regardless of rotation around him.

The midfield will also see certain changes with Nemanja Matic missing this one through suspension, which begs the question of who is going to sit in the middle of a trio in the centre of the park. Marouane Fellaini has taken a lot of plaudits for his protection of the back four against Burnley and Watford so it seems logical that he will step into Matic’s place although many would like to see Andreas Pereira, especially as he was eased back into the set up with a substitute appearance in Switzerland. Paul Pogba has to continue after coming up with a fantastic performance and two goals in the Champions League and, in all probability, Fred will likely remain in the starting line up with Ander Herrera still carrying a knock.

In terms of the visitors, they’ve started their return to the Premier League quite strongly as many predicted from the outset. With super agent Jorge Mendes pulling the strings behind the scenes to improve the squad, they look every inch the Premier League side and have built solidly on their Championship winning base of last year. They have struggled to find the finishing touch to the wealth of chance they’ve been creating though and were particularly kind to Burnley last weekend by wasting opportunities and sparing the Clarets from an embarrassing scoreline. United will be looking to choke that chance making creativity from Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho in midfield, knowing that will make life a whole lot easier on Saturday afternoon.

It’s time to give the Old Trafford crowd something to cheer about after a long wait. Hopefully, the Stretford End will be passionately applauding the manager and his team off after a convincing win this time.

Score Prediction: Manchester United 3 – 1 Wolves

Simon Carline

My old man said "be a Leeds United fan", I didn't call him a nasty name, but I did ignore him in favour of Cantona, Hughes, Kanchelskis & co. What I know about Football, isn't worth knowing.

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