Manchester United take on Wolves this weekend on the back of some improved form and results following their rocky start to the season. Having lost 3-0 at home to Tottenham Hotspur, United supporters were worried about their chances of picking up all three points away to Watford, considering the Hornets had just beaten Mauricio Pochettino’s men.
Yet their fears were eased on the back of a first half performance that saw them deservedly go 2-0 up thanks to goals from Romelu Lukaku and Chris Smalling. United were less impressive in the second half but still managed to hang on to the win, courtesy of some excellent late stops from the ever reliable David de Gea.
This weekend’s fixture against Nuno Espírito Santo’s side should be less of a struggle, even if they are currently just one point worse off than United this season. Still, when you consider they’ve averaged just one goal per game so far, even United’s less than impressive defence should be able to ensure they keep a clean sheet.
Aside from scoring the best goal of his career to date, Smalling put in an impressive shift defensively in his last game. The England international is looking to secure his place in United’s starting XI while Jose Mourinho continues to chop and change at the back.
Lukaku was again in the right place at the right time to get his name on the score sheet, even if the ball went in off his middle after the cross eluded Ben Foster. Whilst he’s still missing too many opportunities, it’s hard to be too critical given his scoring record so far this season, with five goals in six appearances for club and country. Only Eden Hazard, with his hat-trick and player of the week performance last weekend, has more goals than Lukaku in the league this season.
Against Wolves, Lukaku will be looking to add to his tally and you wouldn’t bet against him doing exactly that. Still, when you compare him to the forwards at other clubs, he doesn’t stand out. Against a weaker team on Saturday, the Belgian striker needs to show what he’s made of.
United will be without Nemanja Matic at the weekend following his late red card against Watford. Mourinho won’t be too worried though, given how well Marouane Fellaini has played in his last two starts. While he’ll never be the most popular member of the squad among the fans, it’s hard to ignore the contribution he’s been making both offensively and defensively. He played a role in the lead up to both of United’s goals last week and you imagine he will going in to the Wolves game full of confidence.
Paul Pogba had a game of two halves against Watford, with him bossing the play in the first before looking tired and less effective in the second. Despite rumours suggesting dissatisfaction behind the scenes, the Frenchman will be approaching this weekend with the hopes of creating more chances, playing defence splitting balls and having the odd attempt or two for himself. He scored twice in Switzerland on Wednesday so should feel good about this match.
Who Mourinho opts to play alongside Fellaini and Pogba is still unknown though. Andreas Pereira was left out of the squad last weekend, alongside compatriot Fred, after their travels during the international break, but either of them could be used in the next league game. Ander Herrera, who has been out of action with injury, is another possible contender.
Whoever plays in midfield knows they have a responsibility to shield the defence as much as they do aid the attack though. With Mourinho seemingly settling on Smalling and Victor Lindelof in the central positions, Diogo Dalot might get his first minutes in the league under his belt at right-back, while Luke Shaw may return after the nasty concussion he suffered on England duty.
Wolves are no mugs, having already taken a point off Manchester City this season, as well as winning their last three games in all competitions on the bounce. But Mourinho’s side should have enough to claim a win against them at home, especially if they show the same fight and determination they showed in their last fixture.