On Wednesday, Wolves come to Old Trafford with a spot in the FA Cup fourth round on the line. Here’s everything that you need to know ahead of the match.
(1) Earlier this month, Manchester United labored to a 0-0 draw with Wolves at Molineux. It was a truly dour affair — the Reds failed to direct a single shot on goal — and now means a third round replay during an already-packed month for the club. Both managers opted to rotate their side for the first match: Nuno Espirito Santo rested Raul Jimenez, while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer handed rare starts to Mason Greenwood and Tahith Chong.
(2) After that 0-0 draw, Solskjaer looked on the bright side:
I’m happier to be in the replay than going out. It’s a tough place to come. They had chances — Sergio Romero made some great saves and we got off the hook with the header. Sergio has never let us down, he’s kept so many clean sheets. He is a fantastic human being and a top professional. He’s putting pressure on David De Gea and that’s what we want. We want the best players in the world here. It’s a competition I love. It’s a fair result that we are both still in the cup.
(3) And Nuno’s view of the first match:
At times today, we were at our best, especially in the second half. The first half was not so good. We were much better in the second half, created chances, and had good combinations. There were moments of really good football.
We must compete. We are always happy to face Manchester United. Whether you face them home or away, you always have to challenge yourself. This is what you want to become better — challenging yourself against the best teams. It’s about having a team that can compete against any opponent.
(4) The biggest story surrounding Manchester United at the moment is the (hopefully) imminent arrival of Bruno Fernandes. The Portuguese no. 10 has posted outrageous stats over the past two seasons with Sporting Lisbon and deserves the chance to test himself at a higher level. For now, though, he’ll have to settle for United. (Kidding, kidding.)
(5) All reports indicate that the two clubs will soon agree a £60-ish million transfer fee for Bruno. The 25-year-old should slot right into the hole in United’s attack, helping the Reds create more scoring chances — both on the counter and when trying to break down stubborn defenses.
BREAKING: Bruno Fernandes to Manchester United is virtually complete. A deal wasn't announced today as both clubs involved had games. It should be announced in the next 48 hours with money + players involved. pic.twitter.com/pIRDcLn0vt— Transfer News (@TransfersLlVE) January 12, 2020
(6) Injury update: Scott McTominay will be out until after the winter break in February. That puts him in contention for the Chelsea match at Stamford Bridge, but he’ll be hugely missed until then. Luke Shaw, meanwhile, pulled his hamstring while warming up for the Norwich game and had to be withdrawn from the match-day squad. On a happier note, Harry Maguire’s hip tear turned out to be far less severe than first thought, allowing him to start against Norwich when many feared that he’d miss weeks or months instead.
(7) Shaw’s injury is probably the least-concerning of any this season. With the way Brandon Williams has been playing at left back, he should be first choice anyway. The 18-year-old won a penalty on Saturday and has looked assured defensively all season long.
Brandon Williams has to be the first choice full back for the rest of the season. Offers more than anyone else at LB defensively, offensively and just doesn’t stop working his socks off. Won the penalty and should’ve had a goal today. He’s ready.— The Man Utd Way (@TheManUtdWay) January 11, 2020
(8) None of those injuries mattered in the least on Saturday. Manchester United beat Norwich 4-0 with Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, and Mason Greenwood all grabbing goals. The Canaries were every bit as bad as advertised and United deservedly cruised to their first win of 2020. Wolves, on the other hand, struggled to a 1-1 draw with Newcastle.
(9) Adding some intrigue to this matchup is Manchester United’s reported interest in Wolves’ Raul Jimenez. Kaveh Solhekol (Sky Sports) on these rumors:
Manchester are interested in signing him, but it would be a very difficult deal to do because he has been playing so well at Wolves since he moved there. He has been identified by Manchester United as a player they are interested in. I find it difficult to believe Wolves would sell him, especially in January.
(10) Quick rules reminder: If there’s no winner after ninety minutes, an extra half-hour will be played (two fifteen minute periods) with penalty kicks to follow if necessary.
(11) At least the fourth round might prove a bit easier.