Just as things were looking to be on the up for Ole Gunnar Solksjaer and Manchester United…bosh, Mikel Arteta had to come in all turtlenecked up and undo their hard work over the festive period.
First-half goals from Nicolas Pepe and Sokratis helped Arsenal to a 2-0 win over the Red Devils on New Year’s Day, with the latter failing to capitalise on Chelsea’s and Spurs’ respective slip-ups earlier on in the day.
Attentions now, however, must switch over to the FA Cup and another trip to Molineux to take on Nuno Espirito Santo’s Wolves on Saturday evening.
While Ole may be hoping to seek some revenge for the West Midlanders’ victory over United in this competition last time around, you can imagine that this fixture will be one for youth and second-stringers – with the odd starter thrown into the mix.
Here’s how United could lineup for their FA Cup clash.
Goalkeeper and Defenders
Sergio Romero (GK) – Seen as one of the better reserve keepers in the league, Romero has been a fixture in cup competitions for United since he joined the club in 2015 and there’s little doubt that that trend will continue here. And who knows, with David de Gea enjoying a significant slump in form, Romero could also get a run in the Premier League soon as well.
Ashley Young (RB) – The emergence of Brandon Williams and Luke Shaw’s return to fitness has seen Young’s minutes dwindle on the opposite flank in recent weeks. Nevertheless, with Aaron Wan-Bissaka likely rested and Diogo Dalot barely featuring since his return from injury, there should be a chance for the 34-year-old at right-back. He’ll captain the side as well.
Phil Jones (CB) – Make sure Twitter’s at the ready people, because Phil Jones is back! The player with every facial expression known to man, Jones struggled in his first Premier League appearance of the season against Sheffield United back in November and has only played 22 minutes of football since. He should, however, get a start on Saturday evening with Ole’s options limited at the position.
Harry Maguire (CB) – Here we go, the first sprinkling of a regular starter into this United side. While Maguire certainly hasn’t had the Virgil van Dijk effect on United’s defence thus far, the £80m has had a fine campaign at the heart of the defence and for a little more stability in the Red Devils’ backline in this one, Maguire should get the nod over Victor Lindelof in partnering Jones.
Brandon Williams (LB) – Another product of the club’s fantastic academy, Williams has often impressed in a United shirt since his brief Premier League debut against Liverpool back in October. After failing to make a league appearance in December, the 19-year-old put in his most complete display yet for the first-team in United’s final game of the year at Burnley. And while he was an unused substitute against Arsenal, he’s a nailed-on starter for Saturday.
Fred (CDM) – If you looked up ‘rejuvenated’ in the dictionary, ‘Frederico Rodrigues de Paula Santos’ will be its definition. Regarded as a nothing player by most after his maiden season at Old Trafford, Fred has arguably been United’s best and most consistent performer since the 3-1 home win over Brighton at the start of November – a game that was a real catalyst for the Brazilian’s current purple patch. Tenacious out of possession and often penetrative on it, Fred has proven to be an effective all-action midfielder and will be a key man for United in this one.
Nemanja Matic (CDM) – With the likelihood of Ole opting for a 4-2-3-1 strong, you can expect Matic to partner Fred in United’s double pivot once more. The Serbian was one of the Red Devils’ better performers at the Emirates on his return to the starting XI and is the most viable option to sit alongside Fred at the moment with Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay both out injured.
Daniel James (RM) – The blistering Dan James has certainly enjoyed his start to life in Manchester since his £15m move from Swansea in the summer – scoring three and setting up six in the Premier League so far. His ability in transition may prove to be the X-factor on Saturday evening as the hosts will take the game to Ole’s men.
Jesse Lingard (CAM) – New year, new J-Lingz? The 27-year-old will certainly hope so, as he failed to register a single league goal or assist in 2019. Mind you, if his display at the Emirates was anything to go by, things aren’t looking too promising for Lingard. Nevertheless, he’s an intelligent footballer who can create some issues between opposition’s lines, it’s just a pity that he’s lacked the necessary quality in the final third over the past year.
Andreas Pereira (LM) – With Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial both playing the full 90 at Arsenal, it would be surprising to see either start at Molineux, leaving Pereira as the most viable option down the left. While it’s quite difficult to work out what he’s good at, the Brazilian has made 18 Premier League appearances this season and due to his limited minutes last time out, expect him to start against Wolves.
Mason Greenwood (ST) – If United are to get past Nuno’s men on Saturday, the performance of Greenwood will have a lot to do with it. The 18-year-old is a world class (borderline generational) talent who looks at ease in the Premier League despite his tender age – scoring three league goals thus far. For all his talent, his most impressive attribute has to be his ability to finish off both feet, he simply has no weak foot and overall, comparisons to Robin van Persie seem fair. A superstar in the making.