Manchester United host Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Premier League at Old Trafford tonight knowing that a win will take them second in the table, just two points behind Liverpool.
Yet they also know that Wolves are particularly difficult to beat and in fact have become something of a bogey team since the Midlands club returned to the Premier League in 2018/19.
In that time, the two sides have met seven times, with Wolves winning two, United one and four ending in a draw.
So what do Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men need to change to get the three points tonight? The following are three key issues that the manager needs to resolve.
1. Set a more attacking formation
Wolves’ boss Nuno Espirito Santo has historically played with a back three although he has been mixing that up lately, including in their last game at home to Spurs. Given the success he has had against United with the formation, though, he will probably revert to the three, especially if Willy Boly returns to action.
United need to field an attack-heavy formation to provide the extra man against this formation. In their previous encounter – a 0-0 draw in February that saw Bruno Fernandes make his debut for the club – Fernandes played in the hole behind Anthony Martial, with Dan James and Juan Mata on the wings. The two previous encounters in the FA Cup third round also saw United struggle with a 4-2-3-1 formation although they scraped past their opponents in the replay.
The fact is that the Reds have managed just one goal in those last three outings against the Wolves back three so this formation needs to change. One of the two defensive midfielders needs to be sacrificed. A 4-4-2 diamond or 4-3-3 with two attack-minded CM’s such as Pogba and Van de Beek, with just one holding, should reap dividends.
2. Cut out the defensive errors
Even without Espirito Santo’s old strike force of Diogo Jota and Raul Jimenez, Wolves are dangerous going forward and will not park the bus against United. Given the Reds’ difficulty in scoring against this opponent in recent times it is vital that they tighten up at the back. United have let in two goals in three of their past four games and the last back line to keep a clean sheet was Henderson – Tuanzebe – Bailly – Maguire – Telles. Solkjaer has doggedly stuck with his favoured De Gea – Wan-Bissaka – Lindelof – Maguire – Shaw defence but at some point he has to accept that it is leaky and that he needs to find a different solution.
3. Stop wasting chances
United’s forwards, particularly Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, have been in excellent form of late but their finishing has not been as clinical as it should have been. In a game against a stingy defence it is all the more important to take the chances when they come along.
Solskjaer may be best served today by either dropping either Rashford or Martial or playing them both out wide and allowing a more consistent finisher such as Edinson Cavani or even Mason Greenwood to lead the line.
Edinson Cavani has made quite an impact since his deadline day arrival at Old Trafford, but how much do you know about our other South American players, past and present? Take our quiz below to find out!