The 2018/19 season finally comes to a close for Manchester United on Sunday afternoon, as the Red Devils host Cardiff City at Old Trafford in their final contest of the campaign.
There’s very little to play for, as United have already clinched Europa League qualification for next year, and can only finish as high as 5th in the league standings. It's been a year of highs and lows, but everyone at United will ultimately be disappointed in how poorly it all ended.
It’s only gotten worse and worse for United in recent weeks, and their last contest saw the Red Devils only draw against already relegated Huddersfield Town.
Man U even made the perfect start to the game, as Scott McTominay found the back of the net in the opening ten minutes. There were a few chances to grab a crucial second goal, but United couldn’t make the most of them. Huddersfield eventually made them pay, and equalized the match with a half hour to go when Isaac Mbenza latched onto a long punt from the goalkeeper before poking home past the helpless David De Gea.
United didn’t look like they cared much to search for a winning goal, and were quite easily held to a draw, sealing their fate and eliminating themselves from Champions League qualification contention in the process.
It’s not been any better for Cardiff, who have booked their spots back in the English Championship for next season after losing to Crystal Palace.
They’ve been resilient all campaign, but the Welsh side just don’t have enough quality to stay up in such an ultra-competitive Premier League, especially near the bottom end of the table. They do have a proven manager in Neil Warnock, who’s tried his best to keep the team up, but it might be a long time until fans see the Bluebirds promoted once again.
Last time out
The last time these two sides faced off was quite notable, as it was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's first game in charge for United. It was a dream managerial debut for the Norwegian, who saw his new team run right through his old one.
Marcus Rashford opened the scoring early on, rifling a free kick from distance into the bottom corner. Ander Herrera doubled the advantage soon later, as his deflected effort found its way into the top right hand corner.
Cardiff got one back from the spot through Victor Camarasa, but Anthony Martial quickly restored the lead after finishing off a silky bit of attacking play. Jesse Lingard would go on to grab a brace before the end of the contest, first converting a penalty himself before getting United’s fifth in the 90th minute.
It was a Red Devils performance that gave fans hope, and it set the table for Solskjaer’s early success at the helm.
The only United player guaranteed to miss out is Eric Bailly, who suffered a brutal leg injury a few weeks ago against Chelsea. There are doubts on whether or not others will be able to go, as Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez, and Anthony Martial are all game time decisions.
The good news for United is that some are set to return to the team, as Jesse Lingard should be back in the lineup while Antonio Valencia seems healthy enough finally feature once again.
Cardiff have had it rough in terms of injuries, as they are still without a number of key players. Star defender Sol Bamba, midfield starters Joe Ralls and Matthew Connolly, and goalscorer Callum Paterson are all unavailable for selection come Sunday afternoon.
Manchester United - De Gea, Valencia, Lindelof, Jones, Shaw, McTominay, Herrera, Pogba, Mata, Rashford, Greenwood
Cardiff City - Etheridge, Bennet, Manga, Morrison, Peltier, Hoilett, Bacuna, Gunnarsson, Laing, Reid, Zohore