Manchester United return to Premier League action tomorrow (Thursday) with a trip to Molineux, to face Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Erik ten Hag’s men squeezed past League Two opposition Newport County in the FA Cup after their winter break and will be hoping for a much-improved performance in the Midlands.
Wolves are in good form on home soil, unbeaten in their last eight, winning five and drawing three since their 3-1 loss to Liverpool in September.
Gary O’Neil’s men will also be out for revenge on United who needed a second-half Raphael Varane header to beat them on the opening day of the season, in a game that Wolves were unfortunate to lose.
United will want a much more controlled performance on Thursday but will understand the dangers of the very well-coached home side.
Casemiro and Kobbie Mainoo are expected to provide protection to the back four and will be key in United leaving with three points.
The duo played together for the first time against Newport and the mix of experience and youth is a partnership Ten Hag will be looking to develop in the second half of the campaign.
Both players are comfortable in possession and will be expected to transfer the ball into attacking areas quickly, to get United’s attackers in the game.
Ten Hag has Marcus Rashford back available after drawing a line under a disciplinary issue but Alejandro Garnacho and Antony both played well at Newport, leaving the Dutchman with a selection dilemma.
Whichever two of the aforementioned join Rasmus Hojlund up front, getting the ball out wide in transitions will be United’s best chance to win the game.
United’s frontmen have pace to burn and with Wolves typically favouring a 3-5-2 formation, there will be space for the attacking trio.
Wolves are missing key man Han-Chee Hwang who is away with South Korea in the Asia Cup, leaving Pedro Neto and former United target Matheus Cunha as the obvious threats to the returning Andre Onana’s goal.
United need to improve from set pieces, both defensively and offensively but will particularly need to be on their guard in their own box, at Molineux.
Wolves have the physicality to dominate United in both boxes and Ten Hag will be drumming into his players the need to match the opposition for desire when defending their goal.
However, if United can control the midfield and keep the ball on the floor, they will no doubt create chances and it will be down to their quality in front of goal, more than anything else, that will decide the outcome.
In the very same fixture last season, Marcus Rashford came off the bench to score the winner after losing his starting spot a disciplinary issue and Ten Hag would no doubt take the same again on Thursday to draw a line under that saga and kick-start the second half of their Premier League campaign.