It might seem a little strange to say so, especially since Wolves are one of the worst sides in the Premier League, but this afternoon’s match at Old Trafford should be looked at with anticipation. No, not the kind of anticipation that’s felt ahead of a crunch clash in May, but the kind of anticipation brought on by a desire to turn the page and an uncertainty about what lies ahead on that next page.
For reasons that have been discussed, discussed, and discussed, the last few days haven’t been too pleasant for Manchester United, but today offers up the opportunity to start moving ahead. However, there’s no telling what lies ahead today, much less next week, next month, or the remainder of the season.
1. Wolves are 16th in the Premier League table, four points clear of the bottom three with 14 points from 14 matches.
Last Sunday, they staged a late comeback to beat fellow strugglers Sunderland 2-1 at home, with Steven Fletcher cancelling out Kieran Richardson’s 52nd-minute opener with a 73rd-minute equalizer and then winning it for Wolves with an 81st-minute strike.
After winning their first two league matches this season, Wolves have only two wins in their last dozen league matches, and they have just as many points in their last 11 matches (7) as they did in their first three.
Away from home this season, Wolves have been woeful. They opened the season with a 2-1 win at Blackburn, but they’re winless in six away matches since, with five defeats and a draw.
2. Steven Fletcher was Wolves’ leading scorer last season, as he notched 10 league goals in 29 appearances, and he’s their leading scorer this season as well, with five league goals in nine appearances. That’s one third of Wolves’ haul in the league thus far, as they have notched only 15 league goals in their 14 matches.
Fletcher should be partnered up front by Kevin Doyle, who has two goals in 13 appearances this season.
Matt Jarvis, who had an excellent season last season, and Stephen Hunt, haven’t been at their best thus far this season but could be dangerous, while former Spurs midfielder Jamie O’Hara is performing well in his first full season at the club after a half-season on loan last season.
3. Wolves are near the bottom of the league defensively as well, having surrendered 24 goals.
Mick McCarthy’s side has allowed multiple goals in nine league matches, and in their last five away matches in the league, Wolves have surrendered a dozen goals, with each opponent netting at least twice. And in five matches against teams currently in the top seven, they’ve also allowed a dozen goals, with each opponent netting at least twice.
1. No injuries, please.
This goes without saying, especially after the unthinkable happened on Wednesday night, but United can ill-afford to lose anyone else to injury right now, even for a week. Injuries can’t be looked at as the sole reason for what happened in Europe or the recent lack of goals, but if the side was dealing with much better luck on the fitness front, there’s a more than fair chance things would not be as they are at the moment.
2. Rediscover the killer instinct, please.
United haven’t scored more than one goal in any of their last seven Premier League matches. That run needs to come to an end today.
3. Opportunity, opportunity, opportunity.
As crushing as exiting the Champions League is, this week could well be an extremely positive one domestically. If United win today, they’ll be in position to close the deficit at the top to either two or three if City fail to win at Chelsea on Monday.
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