January 2, 2020
Manchester United will face Wolverhampton Wanderers in the third round of the Emirates FA Cup on Saturday evening at the Molineux. It is not happy hunting ground for United who are yet to beat Wolves at home or away since they were promoted to the Premier League ahead of last season. United and Wolves will be looking to come back from defeats on New Year’s Day with United falling to a 2-0 defeat to Arsenal with Wolves losing 2-1 against Watford.
United will be without both Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba for a prolonged period of time meaning Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is down to barebones, especially in midfield with him needing to look into bringing additional players into the club during the January transfer window. United will be seeking to get one over Wolves as they have not done so in the four meetings already since their return to the Premier League. Here is my starting XI prediction for this match.
Goalkeeper: Sergio Romero
Sergio Romero has been a decent stand in for David De Gea this season and has been tasked to play in cup matches. However, this coming wee will see United playing in the FA Cup and the Carabao Cup and perhaps Romero may not play in both matches, however, that remains to be seen. The Argentinian has performed to the best of his abilities each time he has played this season. In his six appearances, 540 minutes of football this season, he has kept a total of five clean sheets showing his abilities as a goalkeeper, something United will be proud of.
Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Eric Bailly, Harry Maguire, Brandon Williams
The defence will need to be at their best when they face Wolves as they are a very attacking team, despite being in a period of indifferent form, based on their last six results – three wins and three losses. Victor Lindelof has declined, in my opinion, of late so the return of Eric Bailly should be something that is thought about. Partnering him with Harry Maguire with the captain seeking to find form after some poor performances in the past month. Aaron Wan-Bissaka should play in the right-back position with Brandon Williams playing at left-back as I just do not see anything positive in Luke Shaw at this moment in time. Williams was the Man of the Match against Burnley but not used against Arsenal, even when Shaw was being battered on the left. It was easy to see.
Midfield: Fred, Tim Fosu-Mensah
There is not much depth in the midfield at United, this was something that could have been seen in the summer when Marouane Fellaini and Ander Herrera were not replaced. United have just Fred and Nemanja Matic as experienced midfielders and Matic is not fast enough to play in big matches also with talk that he wants to leave the club. Fred should keep his place as his progress has been seen over the past feel months and he deserves to be rewarded with a place in the team. Partnering him though will be problematic with both Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba on the sidelines through injury for two months and one month respectively. Tim Fosu-Mensah has been training over recent weeks in a bid to return from a knee injury. Playing at right-back will not be an option and in defence, it’s unlikely that he will be chosen so in defensive midfield, he could be a player that helps the club going forward.
Attacking Midfielders: Daniel James, Andreas Pereira, Marcus Rashford
United need to get more from the attack. Creativity has been poor this season, despite many goals being scored. Against Arsenal, there was nothing of not happening and the forwards could not make anything work. If those higher up in the club cannot see that players are not good enough, I don’t know what else to say. Daniel James should keep his place in the team as should Marcus Rashford. Both players have aided the team this season. Andreas Pereira should play in the number ten position in this formation as he offered more than Jesse Lingard in a few minutes compared to what Lingard did in the best part of an hour against Arsenal. I don’t see Pereira as a long-term solution but I see less in Lingard based on the past year as he just occupies a place in the team, doing nothing of note the majority of the time.
Striker: Mason Greenwood
Mason Greenwood needs to be given the chance to lead the line for United. Granted, Anthony Martial has not been provided with the chances because of the players behind him but he is not completely faultless as at times he has not been in the position to benefit from chances that have been created. A striker will need to play that forward role all of the time, not sitting outside of the box to the left or the right, like Martial has. The Frenchman will need a rest too and having a good rotation forward in Greenwood, it could be a great thing for United but will the manager learn to entrust the youth or will he only use them either when he has to or when he feels comfortable? Time will tell.
Substitutes: Lee Grant; Victor Lindelof, Ashley Young; Juan Mata, Angel Gomes, Nemanja Matic; Anthony Martial
United will need to have something on the bench to bring on if they struggle in the game or need something extra to ensure they get the result they want – staying in the FA Cup this season. I would expect to see David De Gea rested with Lee Grant on the bench. Victor Lindelof and Ashley Young could provide defensive cover, if needed. Juan Mata, Angel Gomes and Nemanja Matic could provide midfield reinforcement and Anthony Martial on the bench should they need extra firepower in the attack to win the game or find a way of coming back from a deficit. This will be a tough game for United and one they really should be winning.