The gruelling FA Cup run for Manchester United continues on Saturday night, as the Red Devils travel to Molineux Stadium to face Wolves in the quarter-finals of the historic competition.
With Manchester City as the only other big six side left in the cup, United will see England’s oldest tournament as their best chance at a trophy this season.
Wolves are not a team to take lightly, however, and Saturday’s contest will likely be full of excitement and drama.
Both sides in good form
For only the second time under new boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, United come into a game having to rebound from a tough loss. The Red Devils travelled to London to face Arsenal in a crucial contest in the race for the fourth and final Champions League qualification spot.
It might sound cliche, but it was just one of those games for United. They had the better chances throughout but were unable to put the ball into the back of the net.
The goals they conceded were quite flukey as well. A long shot from Granit Xhaka curved and dipped an unreasonable amount, catching David De Gea flat-footed as the ball bounced into the back of the net. The second came as a result of an undeserved penalty, as Alexandre Lacazette hit the ground after minimal contact from a Fred challenge. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang converted from the spot, and put the game to bed.
It wasn’t a killer blow in the top four race, but it puts the pressure back on United to climb up the table. It was a dream response after the first leg loss to Paris Saint-Germain, and Solskjaer will have to prove he can rally the troops once again.
Wolves have quietly been one of the most consistent clubs in all of England. Promoted after dominating the Championship last season, they have never been in genuine fear of relegation this time out.
Wolves have also become giant killers, picking up results against United, City, and Chelsea in the league, while eliminating Liverpool in the FA Cup. They have not lost a game in two months and now sit in 7th in the Premier League.
There’s plenty of reason to believe Wolves will be able to stay there, which would clinch European competition for next season. With a young core and an owner who's willing to spend, Wolves could be the next team to crack into the vaunted top six.
Last time out
The two sides faced off early in the Premier League season at Old Trafford, and it was a much different time back then.
United were in good form, but under former boss Jose Mourinho, who had the team riding a three-game win streak. Wolves were still adapting to life in the Premier League and were still developing team chemistry.
The Red Devils took an early lead after Paul Pogba laid off a pass to Fred on the edge of the area, who curled a shot into the side netting. The home side had a number of chances to double their advantage, but could not put the game to bed.
They were made to pay for their mistakes early in the second half, as Joao Moutinho capitalized on bad defending to slam a shot into the top corner, giving De Gea no chance.
Both teams had opportunities to grab a late winner, but the game ended in a 1-1 draw that left United fans wanting much more from their team and manager.
It’s somehow gotten worse for United on the injury front. Romelu Lukaku is the latest addition to the treatment table, as the Belgian picked up a foot injury against PSG, and is unlikely to feature on Saturday.
Ashley Young is also out, as he picked up a suspension for yellow card accumulation after being booked in the last round against Chelsea. Jesse Lingard and Ander Herrera are back in training - but are still doubtful for the Wolves game.
The only player confirmed to be back is Phil Jones, while Solskjaer hinted that youth academy product Mason Greenwood could get valuable minutes.
Wolves have everyone available for selection, which is quite remarkable at this point of the season.
Manchester United: Romero, Dalot, Lindelof, Smalling, Shaw, Fred, Andreas, Pogba, Greenwood, Rashford, Martial
Wolves: Patricio, Saiss, Coady, Boly, Doherty, Dendoncker, Neves, Moutinho, Johnny, Jimenez, Jota
What to watch for
Who starts up top for United?
With injuries and fatigue in mind, it’s tough to predict who will get the nod up top for the Red Devils. As mentioned prior, Lukaku is most likely out for the contest after picking up an injury, which is a shame because the Belgian was in great form.
Marcus Rashford is available for selection, but he looked tired against Arsenal. It’s hard to blame him, as he’s featured consistently in recent weeks without getting much of a break.
Anthony Martial returned to the team last week as a substitute, but it’s not clear if he’s ready enough to start from the get-go. Youth product Mason Greenwood is in the squad, and the youngster might get his big chance on Saturday.
Now, it’s up to Solskjaer to figure out how he’ll set up the team, especially going forward against a solid Wolves team.
Who will be the hero for Wolves?
Wolves have very much been a team this season. Everyone has a job, and they all do what is needed of them. They defend and attack as a unit, and this team spirit is a big reason why they have been so good.
However, if they want any chance of pulling off a cup upset against Manchester United, someone will have to step up and be the hero on the night.
Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota have become a dangerous attacking duo, and both have a match-winning ability in them. Moutinho scored against United earlier in the season and has plenty of experience in the big games.
Ruben Neves has become the face of the club, and the youngster could cement himself as a star with a dominant performance on Saturday. These are the big games Wolves have been dreaming about, and now it’s time to see if the club have enough star power to pull off yet another monumental upset.