Manchester United’s first game of 2022 sees Ralf Rangnick’s side take on Wolverhampton Wanderers at Old Trafford. Mason Greenwood’s goal secured United a late win at Molineux when the two sides met in August.
United were victorious over Wolves last season at Old Trafford. A last-minute winner courtesy of Marcus Rashford was enough to earn all three points for the Red Devils.
United will be hoping to carry momentum from Thursday night’s home win over Burnley into the game against Wolves. Goals from Scott McTominay and Cristiano Ronaldo combine with an own goal from Ben Mee, saw United take all three points, despite a goal from Burnley forward Aaron Lennon.Embed from Getty Images
Thursday night’s performance was much improved from last Monday’s visit to Newcastle, where United performed poorly, eventually scraping a 1-1 draw thanks to an Edinson Cavani goal. It was a game where United could have easily conceded three. Rangnick will no doubt be desperate for his side to emulate, and better, their performance against Burnley.
Monday’s game will be Wolves’ first since December 19th, where they drew 0-0 against Chelsea, due to Covid related postponements. It is not necessarily easy to know how Bruno Lage’s team could perform, with a two-week break in between games, and disjointed training sessions.
Such a long break can sometimes be a contributing factor to poor performances, as teams across the Premier League have shown in recent weeks. Before their break, Wolves won just one of their last five games, winning 0-1 away to Brighton at the Amex.
United are still without Paul Pogba, who is yet to return to full training, and Victor Lindelof, who is still out with Covid-19. Antony Martial hasn’t been involved on a matchday since Rangnick took over as manager, and apparently wants to leave the club. He almost certainly won’t be involved again on Monday.
As it stands, Eric Bailly is unavailable for the game against Wolves, due to an international call-up to play at the African Cup of Nations with Ivory Coast. However a late injury to Harry Maguire could see him recalled for tonight’s fixture. He was originally meant to travel following the Newcastle game but had to be recalled by United to play against Burnley.
United are bolstered by the return of Bruno Fernandes, who missed the game against Burnley through suspension, after receiving his fifth yellow card of the season at St James’ Park. Raphaël Varane could also be in line to start, after being rotated out of the side against Newcastle. The Frenchman previously missed several weeks with an injury.Embed from Getty Images
As it has been confirmed that Maguire will not play against Wolves due to picking up an injury against Burnley, there is a chance that either Bailly or Phil Jones could play tonight.
Wolves have several players side-lined for their trip to Old Trafford. Fabio Silva has tested positive for COVID-19, and they have six players currently injured, including Hwang Hee-Chan and Willy Boly.
Portuguese winger Pedro Neto is still injured, and whilst his return date is getting closer, he is still yet to recover from the knee injury he picked up last April. Jonny Otto is also in a similar situation, and he is also still out for a few weeks.
Ones to Watch
Luke Shaw came back into United’s starting 11 for the game against Burnley, to make his first league appearance under Rangnick. He looked almost back to the player we saw last season for United, and during Euro 2020 for England.
On Thursday, his progressive play was pivotal to United’s attacking threat. Shaw played an exceptional pass to Ronaldo in the first few minutes of the game to create a one-on-one chance, although United’s number seven surprisingly failed to hit the target.
He also linked up excellently well with Sancho down the left-hand side. It was Shaw’s pass to Sancho which created Mee’s own goal after the defender got a slight touch on Sancho’s shot.Embed from Getty Images
Against Burnley, Shaw made three key passes and put in 11 crosses, as well winning both of his tackles. It was a great performance from the Englishman, who will be looking to find a run of good form going into the second half of the season.
Another United player who was excellent against Burnley was McTominay. The midfielder had the opportunity to push further up the pitch when United were attacking and was rewarded with a goal, although he could easily have had a hattrick.
The Scotland international was paired in midfield with Nemanja Matic, whose natural defensive tendency allowed McTominay more of an opportunity to go forward. He was also excellent defensively. United’s number 39 will still be hoping to carry his good momentum from Thursday’s game into the visit from Wolves.
Adama Traore is certainly a player United should be cautious of on Monday. He caused United’s defence a lot of problems in the game at Molineux in August, often bursting past defenders with his electric pace, to leave players in the dust.
Whilst Traore can sometimes lack a product, whether a finish or a pass, United must still not underestimate Adama, who can hurt teams on the counter with his pace.
David de Gea;
Diogo Dalot, Raphael Varane, Phil Jones, Luke Shaw;
Fred, Scott McTominay;
Jadon Sancho, Bruno Fernandes;
Marcus Rashford, Cristiano Ronaldo.
Kicking off the new year with a win
United have the chance to win their first game of the new calendar year for the second in a row; the first game of 2021 saw United beat Aston Villa 2-1 at Old Trafford.
A victory in the first game of 2022 would be huge for Rangnick’s side, who are hoping to close the gap on fourth place, currently occupied by Arsenal. United will be hoping to get the year off to the best possible start and hit some good form with a busy fixture list ahead.