MANCHESTER UNITED welcome Wolves to Old Trafford on Saturday evening. Jack Lambden (@_JackL_) analyses the encounter.
Manchester United v Wolves | Saturday 1st February 2020, 17:30 | Sky Sports
Manchester United’s topsy-turvy season continues on Saturday tea-time with a third match in less than a month against Nuno Espírito Santo’s Wolves side.
It’s been up and down (at times very down) at Old Trafford this campaign, with increasing negative attention being paid towards United’s ownership and club management in the past couple of weeks in particular following the 2-0 defeat to Burnley.
We can all condemn the attack on executive vice chairman Ed Woodward’s home but can certainly sympathise with the ongoing green and gold protests at the club against the Glazers who, it’s evidently clear, are using Manchester United as a cash cow until they inevitably sell up for a big profit.
Seeing your club controlled slip away from its former glories and off-field issues become more prominent is going to rile supporters of any club, no matter what level they sit at but protests becoming physical and personal are a step too far.
On the field, victory at their City rivals on Wednesday was not enough to help United reach the League Cup final but there were glimpses of quality on show that have been few and far between this season and for many a year.
Whilst back-to-back clean sheets will have boosted confidence, as well as the performances of Fred and Harry Maguire, the squad as a whole still looks desperately short to compete with the top two sides in the country and their biggest rivals – Manchester City and Liverpool.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs to ensure that he doesn’t overburden some of his talented youngsters like Brandon Williams and Mason Greenwood with too much game time so early in their careers.
New signing Bruno Fernandes, who could come straight into the side here in place of the suspended Nemanja Matic, may fill some of the void that 14 goal Marcus Rashford’s injury leaves the team with but again, the Portuguese midfielder’s transition into the team should be managed carefully.
The United manager admitted after the midweek win that his team are going to be inconsistent and therefore, on the betting front, there’s little to convince me to back on the outrights here as favourites.
Wolves to come on strong in the second-half
As much as the Red Devils have failed to impress, the same cannot be said for a Wolves team that sit seventh in the Premier League despite having to contend with a Europa League campaign which so often hampers any chance of good domestic form. Perhaps most impressive has been the Midlands club’s record since promotion only 20 months ago against last season’s top six.
Nuno’s troops have avoided defeat in 12 of those 20 matches with half of the defeats coming against champions elect Liverpool so they will have little fear travelling north to go face-to-face with a club far less imperious than they once were.
Another prevailing theme of Wolves’ Premier League exploits has been their second half performances and goals. Of the 47 goals Wolves scored last season, 30 arrived in the second 45 minutes of matches (64%) and that percentage has risen to 74% since August – 26 of the 35 goals bagged in 2019-20.
On that basis, the 11/10 available with Betway on Wolves to score in the second half looks a good way to go and will be a confident first selection from me.
Considering that opponents United played in midweek, exerting plenty of energy to overturn the deficit incurred in the first leg and playing the final 15 minutes with 10 men, plus the fact that many of the players who will start here featured on a heavy pitch at Tranmere last Sunday, tiredness could start to creep in for the home team and benefit Wolves which boosts the chances of the 11/10 landing.
Unsurprisingly, with Wolves having scored so many of their goals after the interval, their second half win-draw-loss record reads very well for Wanderers fans. Having only lost 1 of their 24 second halves played this season, I’m surprised to find Wolves +0 on the second half handicap at 65/50 with Marathon.
Backing this means that you would get at least your money back on 96% of occasions this season, essentially a ‘draw no bet’ option for Wolves’ favourite half of football so I’m happy to make that my second and final selection. Their record leaves them fourth in the second half league table away, compared to 19th in the first, which is a stark indicator as to the difference in performance levels from one 45 minutes to the other.