After picking up the first trophy of the season in last weekends Carling Cup final, in the process retaining the trophy and becoming the first side ever to do so. The week has since been littered with talk of the Glazers and a possible takeover from ‘the Red Knights’. Whether this will emerge as a reality remains to be seen, but one thing is certain, Wolves will be looking to take full advantage of any post-trophy winning complacency and financial speculation surrounding the club.
After midweek international duty many of the players will now have to focus on the game at Molineux against Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Many would expect Edwin van der Sar to return to the Manchester United line up, though Tomasz Kuszczak will have something to say about that. A good display in the Carling Cup final and more over the same in midweek for Poland, the PIG will be looking to a prolonged run in the team.
Rio Ferdinand is available for selection and should partner Nemanja Vidic in central defence. Patrice Evra will be at left-back as ever, and Gary Neville may get the nod over Rafael on the right side against weaker opposition and due to the Brazilian carrying a slight knock. Jonny Evans will miss the game with a knee injury.
Some semi-exciting news, Owen Hargreaves looks likely to play for the reserves in midweek, so he may be in for a first team call-up very soon indeed, but Wolves have came maybe a week too soon. Anderson is out for the season and Giggs is still sidelined with a broken arm. It would not be surprising if United lined up with five across the middle, Antonio Valencia on the right, making his 100th Premier League start. Nani is back from suspension, so could be on the left, but Ji-Sung Park will probably get the nod. Darren Fletcher, Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick should be the central midfield trio.
We have all heard the news that Michael Owen is out of the remainder of the season with a hamstring problem, so it seems we have an issue with our strikers. Wayne Rooney is also a doubt with a knee problem and Federico Macheda is only just returning from long-term absence. So the responsibility to lead the United front line should fall to Dimitar Berbatov. The Bulgarian still has doubters and a good performance leading the line on his own will do nothing but help his case.
Sir Alex Ferguson though expects a battle, he said, “It’s a real dogfight down there. Wolves are fighting for their lives so we expect a difficult match. It’s not going to be easy, but we’re in a situation now where we need to win all of our games. They have to gather points to stay in the league, and it’s the same for all the other teams down there. It’s not easy, but knowing Mick, he’s never been one to shirk a challenge. There is no doubt that they will have a go at us. We’ll just have to make sure we’re prepared for a battle.”
All the talk after the reverse fixture in December was about Mick McCarthy’s decision to field a weakened team, a suspended £25,000 fine will put a stop to any likelihood of a repeat as the Yorkshireman is likely to field an unchanged side from the one that was beaten by Bolton last weekend.
The main dangerman for Wolves this season has been Kevin Doyle, the clubs top scorer with six goals thus far. Jody Craddock is having something of an Indian summer in the gold and black, whilst also contributing four strikes to aid the anti-relegation cause. One player of interest to United fans will be Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, a goal machine in the Championship, has struggled with the step up scoring a paltry goal in the Premier League this season.
Doyle does seem optimistic, stating “United have so many games and, no matter how good a player you are, with that amount of matches, it is difficult to do it week in and week out. I think that is why you have seen some of the results this season, with the top teams beaten. We have less games to play all season, so that is an advantage and hopefully that will show on Saturday.”
Wolves’ only victory in 14 Premier League matches against Big Four opposition was at home to Manchester United in January 2004. A 1-0 win, though last time the side met at Molineux United were 3-0 victors, in the FA Cup four years ago. As well as being the Premier Leagues lowest scorers with 21 goals, Wolves have failed to score in 12 of their 27 league matches this season.
United on the other hand have only won two of their last six away matches in the league and failed to win in both previous Premier League visits to promoted clubs this season.
A battle will ensue, that is certain. Wolves are fighting for their lives and may feel they have something to prove with a full strength side on show, but United are beginning to move into top gear and the Carling Cup may well act as a catalyst for a rousing performance.
Prediction: 3-0 United
Probable Line Up: van der Sar, Evra, Ferdinand, Vidic, Neville; Valencia, Scholes, Carrick, Fletcher, Park; Berbatov
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