After back-to-back defeats, Erik ten Hag needs to get the Red Devils’ Champions League qualification hopes back on track. Here’s our Manchester United vs Wolves prediction and preview.

Manchester United vs Wolves: Quick Hits

  • Manchester United still have an 80.8% chance of a top-four finish according to the Opta supercomputer, and are given a 50.7% chance of beating Wolves.
  • Man Utd have won 24 games at Old Trafford in all competitions this season – only Man City (26) have won more home games among EPL clubs.
  • Julen Lopetegui’s men have won just two of their last 21 Premier League away games.

Match Preview

Those of a certain age will remember when you only associated Manchester United with talk of a title challenge. Of course, that was just a few weeks ago, but somehow Erik ten Hag’s side have found themselves needing to scramble for points in their final few games just to confirm a top-four spot.

Defeats at Brighton and Hove Albion and West Ham United in their last two games have allowed rivals Liverpool to creep up on United like Jason Momoa on the red carpet, though crucially, the Manchester club still have things in their own hands. Win three of their last four games and they will clinch Champions League qualification and will hope to get the first of those wins against Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday.

Man United did lose this fixture last season (1-0) but have not lost consecutive home league games against Wolves since a run of three between March 1960 and September 1961. It was a very different team in January 2022 when Joao Moutinho’s late strike won it for the Midlands club, as interim manager Ralf Rangnick struggled to turn things around following the exit of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

While far from perfect, this United side has evolved, especially at Old Trafford where they have won 24 matches in all competitions this season. Only in 2002-03 (27), 2007-08 (25) and 2010-11 (26) have they ever recorded more home wins in a single campaign. United have also kept a clean sheet in each of their last five Premier League home games, last recording more in a row from May to October 2017 (six), and last doing so within a single season from December 2009 to March 2010 (seven).

Man Utd home record 2022-23

To add to United’s confidence will be the fact that Wolverhampton Wanderers have only won two of their last 21 Premier League away games (D6 L13), losing their last two, which included a chastening 6-0 thrashing at the hands of Brighton most recently. They have also lost 10 of their last 11 Premier League away games against teams starting the day in the top four (D1) since winning 2-0 at Manchester City in October 2019. They have managed only four goals in those last 11 games, conceding 23.

It is rare to see a glut of goals whenever these two sides meet, with just 10 scored in their last nine meetings (seven for United, three for Wolves), while there have only been three goals in their last four clashes in Manchester. If someone can find the net though, it will probably be Marcus Rashford, who has scored 19 home goals in all competitions for United this season – the last player to hit more at Old Trafford in a single campaign was Wayne Rooney (20 in 2009-10).

United will be keen for England international Rashford to rediscover his scoring touch. He has 16 goals in 33 Premier League matches this season but has only scored two in his last nine league outings, while only Chelsea (-9.4), Everton and West Ham (both -9) have a worse difference between goals and expected goals than United in the EPL this season, scoring 49 from 56 xG (-7), though Wolves have the next worst with -5.5 (30 goals from 35.5 xG).

Last Meeting

Wolves 0-1 Manchester United: 31 December 2022 (Premier League)

Wolves 0-1 Man Utd stats

Speaking of Rashford, he was in a fantastic run of form when United visited Molineux on the final day of 2022. Post-World Cup, United had come back to a handy run of fixtures that saw them play at home in five out of six games in all competitions, but their sole away trip in that time was one where they were made to work for the win.

Lopetegui had been in the Wolves hot seat just short of two months at the time, having replaced Bruno Lage in early November, and with a World Cup in the middle, the former Real Madrid and Spain head coach had not had much opportunity to stamp his authority on his new team.

Jose Sa was kept busy as he made saves from Alejandro Garnacho and Anthony Martial, while Rúben Neves tested David De Gea with a free kick early in the second half.

It was Rashford who made the difference, playing a one-two with Bruno Fernandes before cutting inside as he muscled through the Wolves defence and fired in at the near post.

Previous meeting line-ups:

Wolves: José Sá, Nathan Collins, Nélson Semedo, Max Kilman, Hugo Bueno, Rúben Neves, Daniel Podence, Hwang Hee-Chan, Matheus Nunes, João Moutinho, Diego Costa. Used Subs: Rayan Aït-Nouri, Jonny, Tote Gomes, Adama Traoré, Raúl Jiménez.

Man Utd: David de Gea, Tyrell Malacia, Raphaël Varane, Luke Shaw, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Bruno Fernandes, Christian Eriksen, Casemiro, Antony, Anthony Martial, Alejandro Garnacho. Used Subs: Harry Maguire, Fred, Donny van de Beek, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Elanga.

Recent Form

United come into this having lost back-to-back games for the first time since they were beaten in their first two games of the season against Brighton and Brentford in August. Ten Hag’s men have only won two of their last eight games inside 90 minutes (D3 L3 – one of those draws saw them beat Brighton in their FA Cup semi-final on penalties).

Despite their recent stumble, Opta’s supercomputer still gives them an 80.8% chance of finishing in the top four, with United needing nine points at most to confirm their place and having won 10 points from the reverse fixtures against their remaining four Premier League opponents.

Wolves’ form has picked up of late as four wins from their last six games (L2) have seen them pull away from the relegation fight. All four of those wins came with a clean sheet but were also all at home. Their last two away games have seen them lose 2-1 at Leicester City and 6-0 at Brighton. Lopategui’s men are mathematically safe from the drop, and Opta believes they are likeliest to finish 13th (36.3% chance), 14th (30.8%) or 15th (17.8%).

Key Players

Manchester United: Bruno Fernandes

Fernandes has been a big player for United again in 2022-23, with the Portuguese midfielder at the centre of most of his team’s best moves and most productive games.

The 28-year-old has 23 goal involvements in all competitions this season (11 goals, 12 assists) in 54 games, the same amount he managed in 2021-22 from 46 outings (10 goals, 13 assists).

Fernandes has created 34 chances for Rashford in the Premier League this season. In the time since Opta have this data available (from 2006-07), just two players have created more for a single team-mate in one Premier League campaign: Christian Eriksen for Harry Kane in 2017-18 (40) and Troy Deeney for Odion Ighalo in 2015-16 (39).

Bruno Fernandes chances created

Wolves: Rúben Neves

Another Portuguese midfielder who has been crucial for his team, Neves is currently enjoying his best scoring season in the Premier League for Wolves.

His six goals in 2022-23 is level with his most productive scoring season since signing from Porto in 2017, matching the six he recorded in the Championship in his debut campaign.

Neves (six goals, one assist) has been directly involved in more Premier League goals than any other player for Wolves this season. However, only one of those has come away from Molineux, when he scored at Brentford in October.

Ruben Neves xG

Manchester United vs Wolves Prediction

Opta’s supercomputer makes United the favourites to claim a much-needed victory, giving a home win a 50.7% chance of occurring, while Wolves making it back-to-back victories at Old Trafford is handed a 21.6% likelihood ahead of kick-off.

That leaves a 27.7% chance of a draw, which would still be a problem for Ten Hag, with that result also giving Liverpool the chance to overtake United in the league standings with a win at Leicester on Monday, albeit the Red Devils would have a game in hand.

Man Utd vs Wolves Opta prediction

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