FA Cup preview: A detailed look at Wolves
Manchester United’s 2020 Emirates FA Cup campaign gets under way on Saturday evening, when we travel to Molineux to take on Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Wolves ended our involvement in last season’s competition at the quarter-final stage and the Reds will be looking to get one over on Nuno Espirito Santo’s side, who are unbeaten against us in four games since gaining promotion back to the top flight in 2018.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has spoken previously about the importance of cup competitions, and United will be hoping to add a 13th FA Cup to our trophy cabinet come May.
Here’s everything you need to know about the team that will be trying to stop us on Saturday…
Wolves have been less affected by injuries than most other Premier League sides over the relentless Christmas period. The Midlanders’ only absentees are forward Diogo Jota, defender Willy Boly and young midfielder Morgan Gibbs-White. Jota was injured during the New Year's Day defeat to Watford and Nuno revealed the club do not yet know the extent of his issue during Friday's pre-match press conference. Boly suffered a fractured fibula in training during October, and underwent an operation shortly afterwards, while Gibbs-White is yet to recover from a lower back complaint which has limited him to just three Premier League appearances this term.
Nuno’s side began their season back in July, in the qualifying rounds of the Europa League, meaning they have played a league-high 35 matches already in 2019/20. After overcoming Crusaders, Pyunik and Torino, Wolves then finished second in their group behind Braga to qualify for the knockout stages, in what is their first sojourn into Europe for 39 years. The increased workload hasn’t had too much of an impact on Wanderers’ league placing, however. They currently sit seventh, which is the same position they finished in last season. After a run of 11 league games without defeat, Wolves have lost three of their last five, to Tottenham, Liverpool and, on New Year’s Day, Watford. A week ago, though, they came from two goals down to defeat Manchester City 3-2 at Molineux, making them the first club to complete the league double over our crosstown rivals since Antonio Conte’s Chelsea in 2016/17.
OUR RECORD AGAINST WOLVES
This is United’s fourth trip to Molineux in just 10 months, and we’ll be aiming to end a run of three without a win against the Midlanders. Nuno’s men knocked us out of last season’s FA Cup with a 2-1 victory in March and repeated that same scoreline in the league just 17 days later, despite Scott McTominay’s first senior goal giving us an early lead. When the sides met in August, Anthony Martial’s opener was cancelled out by Ruben Neves’s spectacular second-half effort. Overall, we’ve played Wanderers on 102 occasions, winning 48, drawing 18 and losing 36. This will be the 10th FA Cup tie between the two sides, with six of the previous nine occurring at Molineux. Before last season’s quarter-final, our last meeting in the competition came in 2006, when a brace from Kieran Richardson and a Louis Saha strike helped Sir Alex Ferguson’s side to a 3-0 fourth-round win.
Former Rio Ave, Valencia and Porto boss Nuno was appointed Wolves’ head coach in May 2017 and made an instant impact at Molineux, securing the Championship title and promotion to the Premier League in his first season in charge. The 45-year-old then cemented his place as one of football’s brightest young managerial prospects by helping Wolves to their highest league placing in almost four decades, as well as a first FA Cup semi-final since 1998. At Wembley, his side ultimately came up second best, losing 3-2 to Watford after a superb late comeback from the Hornets, but Nuno is statistically Wanderers’ most successful manager since Stan Cullis, the man who guided the club to three First Division titles in the 1950s.
ONE TO WATCH
Adama Traore’s pace and physical strength has been evident ever since he first arrived in English football, with Aston Villa in 2015. However, a lack of end product saw the Spaniard struggle to make an impact at Villa Park, before a breakthrough season at Middlesbrough in the Championship convinced Wolves to sign him in the summer of 2018. After a slow start to life at Molineux, the 23-year-old has really come into his own in the opening months of 2019/20, terrorising Manchester City’s defence and scoring both goals in a surprise 2-0 victory at the Etihad Stadium in October. He followed that brace up with another strike against the champions in the reverse fixture and, with four assists also to his name, is making the case to be the Premier League’s most improved player this campaign.
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