Manchester United begin the 2023/24 Premier League season on Monday night where they host Wolves at Old Trafford. The Red Devils are heavy favourites ahead of the match and unlike last year, Erik ten Hag will want to start the campaign brightly. Wolves were defeated on both occasions last season and they were unable to breach the United backline, which is a goal they will want to achieve under the lights on Monday.
In Ten Hag’s first season in charge, Manchester United set the foundations to rebuild the club and return it back to its glory days. A third place finish, a Carabao Cup and an FA Cup final defeat to Manchester City is what they have to show for last season on paper and on the pitch, but in reality, the entire atmosphere and environment at the club has drastically changed for the better, putting the side in a great position to achieve success next season.
The United fans will be pleased to see the opening game of the season is at Old Trafford due to last season’s home form which was the second best in the league. Ten Hag wanted to reconstruct the home fortress and he succeeded with United winning 79% of their home games and conceding the lowest amount of goals at home, with an average of 0.53 per game. Additionally, The Red Devils only lost one game at Old Trafford all campaign, which came on the opening weekend against Brighton, therefore the United boss will be aware of the importance to start with a win on Monday.
Manchester United have addressed their areas of weakness in the transfer window also, bringing in Mason Mount, Rasmus Hojlund and Andre Onana who in particular will revolutionise the way in which the side plays. Ten Hag will expect his team to dominate on Monday and control the game which stems directly from the role of his goalkeeper which entails being proactive and playing out from the back, whilst also taking on responsibility in possession to create a numerical advantage in the first phase. Onana allows the side to push higher up the pitch out of possession also, enabling the press. Ten Hag wants Manchester United to become the best transition team in the world and we should see his philosophy in action against Wolves.
Earlier this week, Wolves were preparing for the United game with Julen Lopetegui in charge, yet there will be a new face in the managerial role when they travel to Manchester after the Spanish boss mutually parted ways on Tuesday. Last season, Lopetegui saved Wolves when they were struggling and he was arguably the biggest reason why the club avoided relegation. Gary O’Neil has taken over the responsibility as head coach having impressed at Bournemouth last season, however he doesn’t have much time to install his ideas on the training pitch.
The Wolves owners are yet to show much ambition to develop the team on the field by not replacing their captain Ruben Neves and Nathan Collins who were two important players for the club. Based on this, it is difficult to see much progression this season and the goal ultimately looks set to be survival, even though there is still quality in the side. The first aspect which O’Neil will be desperate to improve is Wolves’ goal scoring record, the worst in the league last season. However, a positive for the club is the return of Sasa Kalajdzic who is yet to play more than a half for the club since joining last season due to a horrific injury on his debut.
Given the lack of time O’Neil and the players have to prepare for Monday, it is expected that the majority of the focus in training will be on their approach to transitions, out of possession shape and set pieces which doesn’t provide a clear solution to Wolves’ previous attacking problems. A low block is anticipated but with United playing a high line they may find it difficult to maintain possession of the ball. A smash and grab tactic will inevitably the best approach.
Due to the uncertainties surrounding Wolves currently with the new manager incoming at such short notice and just how strong Manchester United are at home, it is reasonable to predict that United will comfortably win this game. The creativity of Bruno Fernandes, Luke Shaw and Mason Mount will prove to be too much for the Wolves team and if the home side score early, they should feast in transitions.
The final prediction is Manchester United 3-0 Wolves.