After maintaining their five-point lead at the top of the Premier League with a 3-1 win over Aston Villa, Manchester United will look to at least do the same and set a new club record in the process this afternoon as they visit struggling Wolves.
United produced one of their better performances of the season on Tuesday at Old Trafford, thanks in no small part to Wayne Rooney, who struck inside the first minute, added a second shortly before halftime, and assisted on Nemanja Vidic’s finely taken second-half strike that all but sealed the deal.
If Tuesday’s performance was the beginning of a long-awaited scoring run from Rooney, we could finally start to see the goals we’ve been craving this season. Of course, cautious optimism is a must with Rooney, but when the confidence is flowing, it’s far easier for the goals and assists to as well. And if Rooney starts hitting that highest gear at just the right time, it bodes well for United as a whole being able to find that consistency in being able to perform well both home and away.
With a win today, United would set a new club record for most consecutive league games unbeaten with 30, surpassing the mark that was initially set from December 1998-September 1999 and equaled on Tuesday.
It’s getting to be desperation time for Wolves, who enter today at the foot of the Premier League table with just 21 points, three points behind 17th-placed Birmingham City, who have a game in hand. Mick McCarthy’s side has lost three consecutive league matches and was dumped out of the FA Cup last weekend at home to Stoke City. On Wednesday at Bolton, Wolves let a point slip away in the late moments in rather disastrous fashion, with Daniel Sturridge pouncing on an ill-advised back pass by Ronald Zubar to score the match-winner on his Trotters debut.
Still, despite the home side’s struggles and lowly league position, the last thing United can afford to do is take them lightly. Wolves have home wins over Manchester City and Chelsea, and they also stunned Liverpool at Anfield in late December, a result that no doubt helped hasten Roy Hodgson’s ‘departure’ (all’s well that ends well there, it seems?).
On top of that, Wolves put a real scare into United at Old Trafford in November, with United needing some late Park Ji-Sung heroics to escape with a 2-1 win.
Park won’t be in the mix for United today, as he’s still resting up from his month-long excursion with South Korea. Park also scored in United’s 3-2 Carling Cup win over Wolves in October, so Wolves will likely be glad to be able to avoid him today. Rafael could be set to return to his starting slot at right back after sitting out the last two matches due to a concussion suffered at Blackpool. Outside of that, there aren’t any injury concerns other than those who’ve not featured for United in some time.
With their attack currently firing on no cylinders – Wolves have failed to score in their last three matches, the home side will amp up their defensive responsibilities to avoid finding themselves in a hole like Villa did. This certainly doesn’t project as an easy encounter, but it’s one from which United should be able to claim the three points without the same cardiac displays that have been a hallmark of this season’s ventures away from Old Trafford.
Prediction: 2-0 United