Preview: Manchester United vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers 

Preview: Manchester United vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers 

The Theatre of Dreams is the venue for Gary O’Neil’s Wolverhampton Wanderers baptism on Monday night, as Manchester United welcome their Midlands counterparts to their headquarters in gameweek one of the Premier League.

While the Red Devils are gearing up for a second season under the watchful eye of Erik ten Hag, their visitors are in disarray after the inevitable – albeit untimely – departure of Julen Lopetegui.

Qualifying for the Champions League with a podium finish and adding another EFL Cup to the trophy case represented a successful first season at the Man United helm for Ten Hag, who was also forced to navigate his players through months of ownership uncertainty during his debut campaign in England.

Thanks to an impeccable defensive record at their Old Trafford base – conceding a league-low 10 goals in front of their own fans all season long – Man United finished in the bronze medal position behind Arsenal and Manchester City, while also inflicting EFL Cup final misery on Newcastle United to end a six-year silverware drought.

To say that Man United endured a tumultuous pre-season period would be an understatement, as after opening with three successive wins over Leeds United, Lyon and Arsenal, the Red Devils were put to the sword by Wrexham, Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund, although a fledgling XI was fielded against the former.

A 3-1 success over Ligue 1 surprise package Lens followed before Ten Hag’s side capped off their preparations with a 1-1 draw versus Athletic Bilbao, and a seventh successive Premier League home win is now expected to be on the menu for Man United on Monday night.

The Red Devils were only bested on one occasion at Old Trafford in the 2022-23 Premier League, although that did come on the opening weekend against Brighton & Hove Albion, potentially invoking fear in the more superstitious supporters who are also wary of the famed new manager bounce.

Despite labelling Wolves’ survival last term as his most “difficult achievement” in his managerial career to date, gripes with the Molineux powers-that-be proved too difficult for former Spain, Sevilla and Real Madrid head coach Julen Lopetegui to overcome.

Amid rumours of bitter feuds with Fosun over how much money Wolves would have to spend in the summer market, Lopetegui cleared out his office only a few days before the start of the Premier League season, leaving the hotseat vacant for ex-Bournemouth head coach Gary O’Neil to take over.

The 40-year-old defied the odds to keep the Cherries afloat in the top flight after their nightmarish start under Scott Parker, but the Bournemouth board saw fit to sack him in spite of his praiseworthy achievements, and O’Neil has hardly been given ample time to become accustomed to his new crop of players.

However, there is familiarity within the visitors’ ranks given that only two new first-team recruits have arrived this summer – one of whom is Matt Doherty, back for a second spell in Wolves colours – and they went through a quintet of friendly games unbeaten, seeing off Porto and Rennes before the managerial shake-up.

Wolves failed to win any of their final eight Premier League road games in the 2022-23 season, though – a sequence which includes a 2-0 loss to Man United on May 13 – and with only 12 goals on rival turf to show for their efforts last term, hopes of an opening-day giant killing are thin to say the least.

Manchester United friendly form:

Wolverhampton Wanderers friendly form:

We say: Manchester United 2-0 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Only West Ham United notched fewer goals on the road than Wolves did last term, and an opening-day meeting with the division’s stingiest defensive side at home should follow the script to a tee.

It may be as you were for Man United in the striker department while Hojlund continues on the road to recovery, but an opening-day maximum should still come the Red Devils’ way on Monday.

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