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Big match preview: Wolves v Manchester United

By Tim Spiers | Wolves | Published:

It's Wolves v Manchester, it's the FA Cup quarter-finals.

It's Wolves v Manchester United at Molineux

Wolves correspondent Tim Spiers previews the clash.

Preamble

Wolves hope that games of this stature become commonplace at Molineux.

But at this moment in time the Wolves revolution is, in theory, still in its infancy (yes, by Fosun's lofty ambitions, being seventh in the Premier League and in the FA Cup quarter-finals is just the start).

So it's with a giddy excitement that Wolves' supporters – and perhaps the players too – approach what on paper in a classic FA Cup pairing.

Wolves and Manchester United, two great, traditional stongholds of the English game, meet on Saturday night, under the Molineux lights for an FA Cup quarter-final that will be played to a finish, penalties et al, all played out in front of the watching nation.

Football doesn't get much better.

Back in the 1950s these two clubs went head to head for titles and FA Cups. Nuno spoke on Friday of his and Wolves' desire to return to those glory days – and if they can win the FA Cup for the first time in 59 years, it will have everyone of a gold and black persuasion believing he can deliver that dream.

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First they need to get past United, who've been one of the most in-form sides in European football this calendar year.

It's a daunting prospect and in the past Wolves will have wilted at United's might.

Wolves vs Manchester United - Tim Spiers and Nathan Judah preview

This season, though, their courageous and attacking approach, they've matched and surpassed the big boys.

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They may still be the slight underdogs – but for all Wolves' disappointment at getting a tough draw, United won't exactly be thrilled at the prospect of being drawn away at the seventh best team in the land.

Wolves have beaten Chelsea, Spurs and Liverpool this season. They've held Manchester City, Arsenal and, yes, Manchester United.

With Jimenez, with Jota, with Neves and with Moutinho they possess attacking talents who would grace Europe's elite. They also possess the fifth best defence in the Premier League.

They can do it. Hold your nerve, Wolves. Play without fear and the glory can be yours.

The opposition

With Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at the helm, Manchester United have rediscovered themselves.

Left battered and bruised by the reigns of David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and especially Jose Mourinho, after the retirement of all-time great Sir Alex Ferguson, Solskjaer has picked up the pieces in sensational style.

The Norwegian, a stalwart of Sir Alex’s trophy-laden era, has implemented the key elements of what made United so successful over the 1990s and 2000s.

Their attacking players have had the shackles taken off and are allowed to express themselves once again.

A core of British players has come to the fore – Marcus Rashford, Luke Shaw, Chris Smalling, Scott McTominay and Ashley Young – in the wake of millions squandered by Mourinho.

And the biggest buy of Mourinho’s reign, Paul Pogba has finally started to show his true colours because of mutual respect between him and his boss. The truth is, United are an entirely different prospect than the side Wolves drew 1-1 with at Old Trafford in September.

Nuno Espirito Santo’s side should still take heart from that point, but United’s ethos has been flipped on its head.

Read Solskjaer's pre-match thoughts here.

And get the lowdown from two United experts here.

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Team news

Ryan Bennett is available for selection with his two game ban for 10 bookings only counting in the Premier League.

John Ruddy – Wolves' FA Cup keeper in every round so far – is expected to be between the sticks. Diogo Jota has been Wolves' only fitness worry in recent weeks but he played 81 minutes at Stamford Bridge last Sunday, so Nuno Espirito Santo's team will be at full strength.

For United, Romelu Lukaku is a late doubt having picked up a foot injury.

Anthony Martial returned to the squad for the 2-0 defeat at Arsenal on Sunday, while Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard and Ander Herrera could also return to action as United's crippling injury list eases. Phil Jones is available again after illness.

Martial is available again

Ashley Young (suspended), Alexis Sanchez (knee) and Antonio Valencia (calf) are out.

Solskjaer suggested on Friday that FA Cup keeper Sergio Romero will be in goal ahead of David de Gea.

Likely line ups

Wolves (3-5-2): Ruddy; Bennett, Coady, Boly; Doherty, Neves, Moutinho, Dendoncker, Otto; Jimenez, Jota. Subs: Norris, Saiss, Vinagre, Gibbs-White, Costa, Cavaleiro, Traore.

Man United (4-3-3): Romero; Dalot, Smalling, Lindelof, Shaw; Pogba, Matic, Herrera; Lukaku, Rashford, Martial. Subs: De Gea, Bailly, Jones, Pereira, McTominay, Fred, Mata.

Key players

Wolves – Leander Dendoncker

While Wolves will take the game to United they'll also have to stop them at the other end. Dendoncker, whose physical presence has added a different dimension to Wolves' midfield, will be key in stopping the supply line – especially from Pogba – to a menacing front-line probably containing both Lukaku and Rashford.

Man United – Romelu Lukaku

The big Belgian was on such a poor run earlier this season that a montage of his mishaps, set to the Benny Hill theme, went viral. Fortunately for United and unfortunately for Wolves, the 25-year-old has recently turned things around in scintillating style, scoring six goals in his past four appearances with braces against Crystal Palace, Southampton and PSG.

The bosses

Nuno Espirito Santo: "The fans will be massive, what Molineux is giving us is amazing, we just want to give back. Together, let's try to do it. It's a big game, that's reality, but our approach doesn't change. We have to manage our emotions so we can have good actions during the game – what happens outside cannot change your behaviour."

Solskjaer has overseen a dramatic improvement in United's fortunes

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: "Last season you were impressed with (Wolves), to go through the Championship as they did convincingly with the players. They had a clear plan, they didn't get Championship players in, (they got) players above the Championship level, and you can see that now in seventh. They trust their own way of playing, they defended fantastically well against Chelsea but at home they take the game to the opponent with the great passing ability in the team."

The players

Diogo Jota: "We know we can go out there and win the game but we also know how hard it will be. We know we will have to be at our best to get to the semi-finals."

Leander Dendoncker: "We’ll give everything to make it a great game for us and the fans, then we’ll see where we get."

John Ruddy: "We’ll look forward to it, it’s going to be a really tough game, but one we’ll embrace. You play this game to win honours and we know this opportunity is within touching distance, but we have a long way to go before we can start thinking about that."

Ryan Bennett: "If we go out there and play as well as we can and win everyone knows where it’s going to take us. It’s rare where players can get to the end of their career and go through the things they’ve achieved."

Sergio Romero: "We know it’s another difficult trip down to Wolves but we’re confident and we know this trophy is very important for us."

Match facts

  • Wolves have only lost one of their past 11 matches in all competitions (1-0 at Huddersfield)
  • Nuno Espirito Santo's team have won seven of their past 10 matches at Molineux
  • Wolves last won an FA Cup quarter-final back in 1998 when Don Goodman scored the winner in a 1-0 victory at Leeds United
  • Matt Doherty has either scored or set up five of Wolves' past six goals in the FA Cup, netting against Shrewsbury three times in two ties and setting up goals for Ivan Cavaleiro against Shrewsbury and Bristol City.
  • The teams have been paired with each other on six occasions in the FA Cup, with United winning four ties to Wolves' two.

Form

Wolves DWLDW

Mar 10: Chelsea 1 (Hazard 90+2) Wolves 1 (Jimenez 56)

Mar 2: Wolves 2 (Jota 16, Jimenez 18) Cardiff City 0

Jota netted against Cardiff (© AMA / Sam Bagnall)

Feb 26: Huddersfield Town 1 (Mounie 90+1) Wolves 0

Feb 23: Bournemouth (King pen 14) Wolves 1 (Jimenez pen 83)

Feb 17: Bristol City 0 Wolves 1 (Cavaleiro 28) *FA Cup

Man United

Mar 10: Arsenal 2 (Xhaka 12, Aubameyang pen 69) Man United 0

Mar 6: Paris Saint-Germain 1 (Bernat 12) Man United 3 (Lukaku 2, 30, Rashford pen 90+4) *Champions League

Mar 2: Man United 3 (Pereira 53, Lukaku 59, 88) Southampton 2 (Valery 26, Ward-Prowse 75)

Feb 27: Crystal Palace 1 (Ward 66) Man United 3 (Lukaku 33, 52, Young 83)

Feb 24: Man United 0 Liverpool 0

Past five meetings

Sep 22, 2018 (PL): Man United 1 (Fred 18) Wolves 1 (Moutinho 53)

Mar 18, 2012 (PL): Wolves 0 Man United 5 (Evans 21, Valencia 43, Welbeck 45, Hernandez 56, 61)

Dec 10, 2011 (PL): Man United 4 (Nani 17, 56, Rooney 27, 62) Wolves 1 (Fletcher 47)

Feb 5, 2011 (PL): Wolves 2 (Elokobi 10, Doyle 40) Man United 1 (Nani 3)

Doyle and Elokobi both tried to claim a goal when Wolves beat United in 2011

Nov 6, 2010 (PL): Man United 2 (Park 45, 90) Wolves 1 (Ebanks-Blake 66)

Referee

Martin Atkinson (West Yorkshire)

Experienced top level referee who took charge of Wolves' 1-0 win at Bristol City in the fifth round (after which Nuno called him Rowan by mistake).

Roger East, who made several controversial decisions in Wolves' recent 1-1 draw at Bournemouth, is the fourth official.

And VAR will be in use at Molineux, overseen by Chris Kavanagh.

Match odds

Wolves 11/5, draw 23/10, Man United 13/10

Tim Spiers

By Tim Spiers
@tim_spiers_Star

Writes about Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club for a living

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