Premier League 2023/24 Match Preview: Manchester United vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers
The opening game week of the 2023/24 Premier League season ends on Monday 14th August.
Following a third place finish in the league, a Carabao Cup victory, and an FA Cup Final appearance last season, Man United fans will be expecting to take the next step in closing the gap with Man City and Arsenal.
Furthermore, the United faithful will be expecting a strong performance on their return to the Champions League, with the Red Devils having so far made three big signings this summer.
Mason Mount joined from Chelsea, to help bolster and improve Ten Hag’s midfield. Andre Onana has reunited with Ten Hag after club legend David De Gea was replaced by the former Inter Milan and Ajax player. Lastly, Rasmus Hojlund has joined to become Man United’s focal point in attack.
Man United’s pre-season preparations may not have gone completely to plan, with some rocky results. However, Onana and Mount obtained crucial game time to adapt to their new roles and teammates.
New signing Rasmus Hojlund joined too late for any game time, but before the 3-1 victory against Lens unveiled himself to the Old Trafford faithful. Unfortunately for United, injuries have halted any potential debut to come in the game against Wolves on Monday night.
Thus, Man United have been left with a hole in their number 9 position. Anthony Martial featured in none of United’s pre-season games, but has been training. It is unclear whether the Frenchman will have any involvement come Monday night.
Ten Hag has experimented with Jadon Sancho playing in a false nine role throughout pre-season. However, in the friendly against Lens which featured a majority of first-team players, Ten Hag opted to play Rashford through the middle and Alejandro Garnacho on the left.
This leaves the question of how Ten Hag is going to set up his team for this test.
Furthermore, Amad Diallo and Kobbie Mainoo are certainly ruled out for the opening game. While Tyrell Malacia is another injury doubt having been injured throughout the pre-season tour.
Manchester United Predicted XI:
Onana; Dalot, Varane, Martinez, Shaw; Casemiro, Mount, Bruno; Garnacho, Rashford, Anthony.
Wolves finished the 2022/23 season in a respectable 13th position. Julen Lopetegui’s arrival in November was a key turning point for the West Midlands club.
This came after the dismissal of Portuguese manager Bruno Lage. Lopetegui was able to steer the Wanderers away from the relegation scrap. However, Wolverhampton’s summer has been one of upheaval.
Firstly, Wolves fell victim to the summer of Saudi. Al-Hilal stole their star man, Ruben Neves for €55 million. This was accompanied by the losses of Conor Coady, Raul Jimenez, Nathan Collins, and Ryan Giles to Premier League opposition. Despite these sales, Wolves have lacked any substantial incomings.
Matheus Cunha returned on a permanent deal following last season’s loan, for a staggering €50 million. Alongside that came two free transfers in the form of Tom King from Northampton; and the return of ex-player Matt Doherty, followed by the 21 year-old midfielder Boubacar Traore. The youngster joined from FC Metz for €11 million.
Despite Wolverhampton’s poor summer dealings, their greatest loss came days before the opening game of the season with Julen Lopetegui announcing on August 9th that he would be leaving Molineux. Lopetegui was swiftly replaced by former Bournemouth boss Gary O’Neil.
This leaves Wolves as an unknown package heading into their opening game against Man Utd, despite having a positive pre-season with zero losses.
It is unknown how O’Neil will choose to line up his team. So, predicting his first team selection as Wolves head coach is extremely difficult…
Wolverhampton Wanderers Predicted XI:
Jose Sa; Rayan Ait Nouri, Craig Dawson, Max Kilman, Nelson Semedo; Mario Lemina, Matheus Nunes, Joao Gomes; Pedro Neto, Matheus Cunha, Pablo Sarabia.
Will Old Trafford see a miracle?
It is unlikely that we will see Gary O’Neil’s side produce any miracles on Monday night.
The lack of time between his arrival and the opening game makes his job extremely difficult. Especially, when competing against an ever stronger Man United side who will be looking to lay down a marker as Premier League challengers.
However, United have various injury issues, with Ten Hag’s major problem being the lack of available strikers.
But, the Dutchman will be hoping that star men Rashford, Fernandes, and co. will be able to step up for the time being. Man United fans can also get excited about the expected competitive debuts of Andre Onana and Mason Mount.
Overall, Wolverhampton Wanderers’ poor summer transfer window and managerial upheaval make it hard to look past a comprehensive victory for their hosts. Nevertheless, Wolves fans will be hopeful that Gary O’Neil can produce more of the miracles that made his Bournemouth side so successful last season.
Manchester United 2-0 Wolverhampton Wanders