The Premier League’s hectic Christmas schedule continues as fourth-placed Manchester United host Wolverhampton Wanderers at Old Trafford on Tuesday (8pm, live on Amazon Prime).
The Christmas and New Year period is traditionally one in which teams play more than their usual share of matches, but the crunch is really likely to be felt this time around as the late kick-off to the campaign has already produced a highly condensed fixture list.
Wolves contest Tuesday’s match just 48 hours after their last fixture. Man Utd have had a relatively luxurious three and a half day rest in the build-up. They then take on in-form Aston Villa 48 hours later, at least again on home soil.
MUFC have so far taken a solid haul of four points from their two holiday fixtures, following a convincing 6-2 thrashing of Leeds United with a 2-2 draw away to fellow top-four hopefuls Leicester City on Boxing Day. They have crept into fourth place and still have a game in hand of the three teams above them.
In a match that was relatively light on shots for a Premier League encounter, United took the lead on 23 minutes when Marcus Rashford raced onto a through ball to finish. Leicester equalised just past the half hour, and while Man Utd retook the lead through Fernandes later on, Leicester struck back again on 85 minutes through a strike deflected off United defender Axel Tuanzebe into the back of the net.
Between the manner of the late equaliser and the fact that United otherwise created the better chances of the match, with Rashford spurning the best pair of them, it did perhaps feel like a couple of points dropped for United. That was certainly what coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s post-match comments suggested.
It was, though, a result that extended his team’s unbeaten run in the league to eight matches. After an uncertain start that spooked some punters, they are now again odds-on to finish in the top four.
Manchester United’s metrics are far from mind-blowing, but they are very solid and on par with those of some of the other sides likely to compete with them for a Champions League berth. If they can keep their current momentum up, a finish there certainly looks a lot more likely than it did back in early November after just a couple of wins and three defeats in their opening six fixtures.
Opponents Wolves come into the match in a less stellar vein of form, having won just two of their last nine in the Premier League, alongside four defeats and three draws. They did, though, at least manage to come back from going behind early on to claim a point at home to Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday. Their second-half push for an equaliser eventually bore fruit when Romain Saiss headed home Pedro Neto’s cross from less than five minutes to play.
Wolves have finished seventh in each of the last two seasons, but a repeat of that feat seems unlikely this time around. They are currently 11th, and although they are only four points off seventh, both top-line results and the underlying numbers suggest their own level seems to have dropped a notch. Teams such as Aston Villa, Southampton and West Ham appear to have improved sufficiently to leapfrog them.
Things haven’t quite clicked for them to the degree they have previously, leading to Nuno Espirito Santo beginning to experiment with different formations such as the 4-2-3-1 he sent his side out in against Spurs. The absence of striker Raul Jimenez, out indefinitely with a fractured skull, has clearly been felt. His callow replacement Fabio Silva hasn’t yet looked up to the task and other solutions haven’t functioned either.
Wolves remain a solid top-flight side and can still be expected to finish comfortably in mid-table but anything more is likely to be beyond them on this occasion.
Both of last season’s fixtures between these sides ended in draws. Wolves haven’t won at Old Trafford since 1980 and it is difficult to see that run ending on Tuesday. The bookies have MUFC odds-on to prevail in the comparison table below and that looks about right. Between United’s better form and their extra day of rest ahead of this fixture, it is the home side who should be expected to come away with all three points in what may actually turn out to be a relatively open game.
So Just Bookies’ MUFC vs WWFC preview’s betting tips verdict goes like this:
- Bet on Manchester United to win in a match featuring over 2.5 goals @ 6/4 with Paddy Power.
Compare Man Utd vs Wolves EPL Match Odds from Biggest UK Bookies