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Starting XI: Manchester United vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers

Winter break is almost here

Manchester United v Wolverhampton Wanderers - FA Cup Third Round: Replay
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Photo by Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images

Everything you need to know ahead of Saturday’s match:

(1) Manchester United bowed out of the Carabao Cup in midweek after falling just short on aggregate (3-2) to Manchester City. The Blues took the first nine shots of the match, utterly dominating the opening stages, but United struck first with a volleyed stunner from Nemanja Matić. That 35th minute goal rocked the hosts and City spent much of the second half looking nervous and unsure in possession.

(2) Unfortunately, the goal scorer was sent off in the 76th minute after picking up his second yellow card. That rules Matić out of this weekend’s match against Wolves, reducing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s already-meager midfield options even further.

(3) Before Wednesday’s match, Manchester United announced that a fee has been agreed with Sporting Lisbon for the transfer of Bruno Fernandes. Finally. There’s always a question of how players will adapt to the Premier League, but Fernandes seems to fit the bill as a legit chance creator and scorer. Plus, he’s never boring. The soon-to-be Red isn’t afraid to fire away on goal from practically anywhere in the opponent’s half.

(4) The other clubs jostling with Manchester United to challenge Chelsea for fourth aren’t standing still, either. Tottenham Hotspur have already brought in Gedson Fernandes and Steven Bergwijn to bolster their midfield and wing, though losing Christian Eriksen to Inter Milan doesn’t exactly help. Likewise, Wolves are reportedly nearing a deal for Daniel Podence, a winger from Olympiacos (and a Jorge Mendes client).

(5) Following this match, Manchester United go on winter break until February 17. In the run-up to the Carabao Cup semifinal, Solskjaer spoke about his players getting a much-needed rest:

We’ve had some ups and downs, but the players in the last two months have played 20 games in a very short space of time. They’ve given us everything and they will again in these last two games. Let’s hope we go into the break positively.

(6) While Manchester United were leaving it all out on the Etihad pitch, Wolves have been resting since last Thursday’s 2-1 loss to Liverpool. Nuno Espirito Santo’s side pushed the league leaders more than most, but couldn’t hang on for a hard-fought draw. A 51st minute Raul Jimenez goal canceled out Jordan Henderson’s opener, but a late Roberto Firmino winner broke Molineux hearts.

(7) Wolves have won just once in their last seven matches — another of Manchester United’s top four challengers to sink into a well-timed slump. While Wolves’ losses to Liverpool and United are understandable, they’ve had a few head-scratching results (loss to Watford, draw with Newcastle) during this stretch.

(8) Saturday will already be the third meeting between these sides in 2020. In January, the clubs contested a third round FA Cup tie that initially ended 0-0 at Molineux, before Manchester United won 1-0 in the replay. That match, though, will mostly be remembered for Marcus Rashford’s back injury which rules United’s leading scorer out for quite a while.

(9) What Ole had to say after beating Wolves in the FA Cup:

Two clean sheets, dogged performances. Yes, we were criticized for not creating too many chances over there, but we are delighted. They are a hard team to break down. We will see them again in a couple of weeks, so this was a test before that. We created three or four big chances, which you don’t really see that often against Wolverhampton.

(10) There’s no stopping Adama Traore. He’s a terror on the wing — Jurgen Klopp called him “unplayable” — and is already drawing big-time attention from heavyweights all over Europe, with Liverpool the latest to be linked. Traore remains under contract at Wolves through the 2022/23 season, so any interested clubs will have little choice but to pay Wolves’ £75+ million asking price. Brandon Williams will have his hands full this weekend.

(11) Quote of the week — Wolves’ Leander Dendoncker on Saturday’s match:

We believe we can go there and get a result. That’s what we do every game and we will try to do it again.