Wolves v Manchester United | Tuesday 2nd April 2019, 19:45 | Sky Sports
Wolves have arguably their biggest game of the season at the weekend as they head to Wembley to take on Watford in the FA Cup semi-finals. Whether they rest key players with that match in mind is not yet known but they’ll fancy themselves here given their strong record against the league’s elite.
It wasn’t long ago that these two faced off in the FA Cup last-eight with the Old Gold running out comfortable winners. Even though United had the lion’s share of possession, you felt like Wolves were always in control. It’s a tactic they can possibly employ once again and they have the requisite players and engrained system to do so.
When the Old Gold receive possession back they have the out-ball of Adama Traore, who is a destructive ball carrier with his pace and dribbling ability, but they also have another way of breaking, a way that most teams simply can’t achieve.
Portuguese duo Joao Moutinho and Ruben Neves are well known for their passing quality and that’s been evident more than once this season. When Wolves employ a low block and retrieve the ball, the midfielders are instantly on the look out for either Diogo Jota or Raul Jimenez at the top of the pitch.
Neves, especially, has the ability to spray an extremely accurate long range pass to the receiver, a case in point being Jota’s goals against Leicester at Molineux not long ago.
Nuno has opted for a 3-5-2 formation with ball-playing centre halves and full backs who regularly get themselves into the final third. It’s a versatile system that all the players are comfortable with and it’s no surprise they’re having a strong campaign.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer now has two hands firmly on the wheel after being given the full-time gig at Old Trafford over the international break. His first permanent game saw United get back to winning ways at home to Watford but it wasn’t overly convincing and Javi Gracia’s men probably deserved a point, in all honesty; they just couldn’t make their dominance count.
Watford out-shot the hosts 20-8 but most were from distance as shown in the Expected Goals (xG) battle which United won 2.40 – 1.30. Paul Pogba didn’t impress all that much with recent speculation linking him with Real Madrid, and the Red Devils will hope that doesn’t affect his performances.
The Betting Angle
With Wolves so good against the top six, there’s no way I can justify backing the away side as short as even-money. Instead I will take the 10/11 (Bet365) that both sides notch. It landed in the last meeting between the pair, as well as earlier in the season at Old Trafford.
Wolves have a strong xG record at home – third best in the league in fact with a 59% return. They also have an xG for of 1.60 at Molineux. On the flip side, United are fourth in away xG standings with a 59% ratio figure and an xG for on the road of 1.56. The stats suggest we should have two side going for it.
I’m also happy to dip into the cards market and there’s a player that looks a touch too big, in my opinion, and that’s Wolves’ Irish right wing back Matt Doherty. He’s picked up four cautions this season, which is about average for a defender, but with the majority of United’s play coming down the left-hand side he could have his hands full.
52% of United’s play came on the left third of the pitch when these met in the aforementioned cup clash. The majority came down that side at the weekend too with Luke Shaw picking up the highest rated player on the stats. Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba sometimes drift over to that side too and they’ll be looking to exploit the space in behind.
Doherty is a bulbous 7/1 (Bet365) to be carded and I expected more of a 4/1 quote, to be honest. There were a massive eight bookings a fortnight ago in the cup so both seem keen for a battle.