What a nightmare few days Manchester United have endured. Defeat at the hands of Basel saw them crash out of the Champions League and the shock was made even worse by their only reliable defender, Nemanja Vidic, being stretchered off with a horrible-looking knee injury.
Just to rub salt into the gaping wound, former captain Roy Keane then heavily criticised the younger players on national television, while news has filtered through today that Vidic will be out for the season.
Rarely will a side managed by Sir Alex Ferguson have come into a Premier League fixture in front of their own fans in such a state of disarray.
Only three times in the previous 17 years have United failed to progress from the group stage of the Champions League, so it isn’t easy to predict how they will fare after Wednesday’s deflation – but Fergie is likely to demand an instant response from his players against Wolves.
If I were Mick McCarthy, I would ask the team coach driver to park in front of the Stretford End and hope for the best, even though United have not been in sparkling goalscoring form recently.
In fact, they have failed to score more than once in a Premier League game since their 2-0 win over Norwich on October 1st – a total of seven league matches.
But a side who stuck eight past Arsenal and five past Bolton earlier in the season are bound to break that hoodoo sooner rather than later.
Wayne Rooney scored a hat-trick in both of those victories, but he hasn’t scored in the league since mid-October. This weekend would seem like the logical time for him to end that drought, though.
Having surely been fired up by his team’s shock exit from the Champions League, the England striker then found out on Thursday that his ban at Euro 2012 had been reduced to two games, which can’t have failed to improve his mood.
Rooney is 3/5 favourite to score on Sunday, but at these odds you won’t see much winnings, so perhaps taking him to score first at 11/4 is the best move.
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When United hosted Wolves in the Premier League last season it was the hosts who claimed victory thanks to a brace from energetic midfielder Park Ji-Sung.
The South Korean is priced at 17/2 by bwin to repeat the trick this weekend, but with only one goal so far this season it seems unlikely that lightning will strike twice.
With Javier Hernandez and Dimitar Berbatov injured, Danny Welbeck should return to the starting line-up for the Red Devils and he is at evens to add to his tally of three league goals, as is a fit-again Ashley Young who is always a threat in front of the opposition’s goal.
Wolves’ front men are unlikely to have much joy in front of goal at Old Trafford against a United side with the joint best defence in the Premier League.
McCarthy will be buoyed, however, by the return to fitness and form of Steven Fletcher, the club’s leading scorer.
The Scot scored twice as Wanderers came from behind to secure a 2-1 win over Sunderland and McCarthy will be hoping he can have the same impact in Manchester.
Fletcher is 18/1 to score twice for the second weekend running, but you can get much better value on him simply scoring once during the game at 3/1, but even that is harder said than done.
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