Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is likely to look back at tonight’s game against Wolves as a make-or-break fixture, both in this season and his Old Trafford career overall.
The shadow of Mauricio Pochettino continues to loom over Solskjaer after his sacking from Tottenham earlier this season, combined with the Football Form Guide showing the Red Devils are far from at their best under the current regime.
The Norwegian tactician badly needs either a top four spot or a trophy this season – perhaps both – or the Pochettino murmurs that are circulating once again are only going to get louder and louder ahead of the summer.
While rivals Liverpool are flying high on a run of 12 consecutive Premier League victories, United have not won more than two in a row for over a year.
That doesn’t bode well for the club’s hopes of making the top four, while their 3-1 first leg deficit against Manchester City suggests they can probably give up on the Carabao Cup too.
That makes tonight’s game against Wolves in the FA Cup third round replay absolutely critical for Solskjaer, who would surely dearly love to win this prestigious old trophy, even if it doesn’t hold quite the same glamour for the big six clubs as it once did.
Speaking ahead of the game, he said: “We want to win the game and go through. The FA Cup is a fantastic tournament, it’s one we’d love to get to the final of and win it.”
MUFC cannot afford to be picky about what silverware they pick up these days, but in Wolves they will face formidable opponents who know how to upset the big six sides.
Nuno Espirito Santo has done fine work at Molineux and has seen his players do particularly well in these games against United, knocking them out of this competition last season and going unbeaten in their last five meetings in all competitions.
Thankfully for United, they do at least have Marcus Rashford in the form of his career, with the England international hitting a career-high 19-goal tally for the season already.
The 22-year-old can’t do it all on his own, but he’ll be the main threat for United this evening, while youngsters like Brandon Williams and Mason Greenwood have also shown they deserve to continue playing in these important matches.
This exciting combination of academy products is one of the most promising seen in a long time at Man Utd, but while it suggests a bright future a few years down the line, it must also translate into immediate success if Solskjaer is to survive.