Manchester United looks to continue its climb up the table with its first match of the new year, a date with Wolves at Old Trafford.
The Red Devils (7th, 31pts) sit just four points outside the Champions League places, but are unbeaten in six under Ralf Rangnick and look to pounce with games in hand. A soft early 2022 schedule affords them the chance to do so, but first they must get past the defensive-minded Wolves.
Led by Bruno Lage, Wolves (9th, 25pts) also have games in hand on those above them due to to COVID-19 postponements, and while they have struggled to score of late, just two goals conceded across their last seven Premier League matches marks a tough test for Cristiano Ronaldo and company.
Still, Wolves have seen their last two matches postponed, and rust could be a factor as has been the case with most clubs returning from long, unexpected layoffs.
Sporting News will be following the match live and providing score updates, commentary and highlights as they happen.
Man United vs. Wolves live score
(All times Eastern)
Halftime: Manchester United 0-0 Wolves
First half xG: 0.21 – 0.74. What a putrid 45 minutes
For Wolves – clearly the better side over the half – the failures in the attacking third have Bruno Lage visibly frustrated on the touchline. They’ve done quite well to hold possession, recycle, and build into the final third, but there it all falls apart.
For United, the Ralf Rangnick 4-4-2 just is not working. The Red Devils cannot maintain any senblence of prolonged attacking possession, they are horrible in the build-up, and the two strikers up front are completely isolated. Bruno Fernandes has no spot in this antiquated formation, and Jadon Sancho is stuck in a role he’s not made to play, unable to contribute.
It’s time for Rangnick to mold his tactics to the players he has available, not the other way around.
44th minute: An absolute snoozer of a first half mercifully ending soon. United losing the ball, Wolves recycling possession, Wolves build-up, Wolves fail in final third, United collect ball, United midfield giveaway. Rinse, repeat.
Trincao, who has been bright, comes close to meeting a cross but its just out of his reach.
Wolves structure so good. Multiple options for player in possession. Always a wise outlet but it can be predictable. Can see why they struggle to score despite clever approach play
— keith costigan (@KeithCostigan) January 3, 2022
35th minute: The best chance of the match, but a wide-open Raul Jimenez misses a header on the doorstep. He was well offside anyways, so despite the miss, the flag goes up. Wolves very close.
The chance, hilariously, started with Ronaldo inexplicably trying to head it back to De Gea but instead giving it right to Wolves in the attacking third. De Gea, rightly so, lights up Ronaldo for trying that.
That Ronaldo header the inevitable confusion that comes with him playing against Portugal
— Kieran Canning (@KieranCanning) January 3, 2022
34th minute: Phil Jones snatches back possession in the attacking third and the crowd goes bonkers. The chance comes to nothing as Greenwood tries to meander through the trees in the penalty area.
The crowd’s reaction speaks as much to how bland this game has been as it does their affection for the defender.
Phil Jones whipping the crowd up.
— Simon Stone (@sistoney67) January 3, 2022
29th minute: Wolves again kills about 10 minutes with slow and sleepy possession before United pops up again, through the same attack as last, and the same result, as a Wan-Bissaka cross goes over the head of a rising Ronaldo.
A problem for Wolves here as Ruben Neves is down for treatment, looks like McTominay caught him slightly. He’s a very important player.
🐺 Wolves ranked 20th for shots in the Premier League this season prior to tonight, with 9.9 per game
🤪 Wolves have had 10 in the first 27 minutes against Manchester United tonight #WOLMUN
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) January 3, 2022
20th minute: Old Trafford begins to feel the pressure, and the fans come to life. The team immediately responds and produces its first attack through, of all people, Aaron Wan-Bissaka. The defensive-minded right-back whips in a cross, and Cristiano Ronaldo rises very high to meet it, but the ball sails just over his head.
17th minute: If we’re being honest, it feels like Man United has yet to show up. Wolves has taken seven shots to United’s one, although most of the visitors’ efforts have been from well outside the box. They only have a combined 0.22 xG for those seven rips. United has wasted possession after possession.
Nelson Semedo takes shot number eight for Wolves, forcing another De Gea save from a tight angle on the right.
12th minute: Daniel Podence forces a save from David de Gea from a tight angle, but the Spaniard was positioned well. The ensuing corner nearly saw Ruben Neves unleash a Kovacic-like volley from miles away, but again De Gea was there to keep it out.
Premier League volley challenge
— Graham Ruthven (@grahamruthven) January 3, 2022
8th minute: An absolutely outlandish pass from Mason Greenwood springs a break for Manchester United, but it comes to nothing. Take nothing away from the pass, which saw Greenwood – pinned in near the top corner of his own box and facing his own net – whip his body around and deliver a 40-yard feed to spring Jadon Sancho on the opposite flank. My goodness.
That is sensational from Greenwood. Strength, vision, execution.
Sancho should do much better.#MUFC
— Laurie Whitwell (@lauriewhitwell) January 3, 2022
5th minute: Wolves has had the brighter start early on, holding 70% possession in the opening five minutes. A few warning signs for United from the get-go, and a corner to Wolves.
1st minute: We’re under way at Old Trafford, with a massive applause for Phil Jones in his return. The 29-year-old is a massively popular player not just among Man United fans, but around England.
Phil Jones receives almost a standing ovation for heading the ball away. #MUFC
— Henry Winter (@henrywinter) January 3, 2022
12:20 p.m. ET: Hammer the under
📊 Wolves have the 2nd best defensive record in PL this season, but are also 2nd lowest scorers. They haven’t conceded a 1st half PL goal for over 3 months (11 games)
Their last 7 PL fixtures have had 4 goals scored (2 x 1-0 wins, 2 x 1-0 defeats & 3 x 0-0 draws) pic.twitter.com/LG2CsPiPjV
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) January 3, 2022
12:15 p.m. ET: Can Cristiano Ronaldo be the leader United needs?
Cristiano Ronaldo captains Manchester United for only the second time in history tonight and for the first time since March 19, 2008. © pic.twitter.com/gwRQKZyDna
— Football Tweet ⚽ (@Football__Tweet) January 3, 2022
11:55 a.m. ET: Lineups are in, confirming Phil Jones gets his first league start in two years. The manager sang his praises, as did the media.
712 – Phil Jones is playing his first Premier League game for Man Utd since January 2020 – 712 days ago. It’s the longest gap any player who hasn’t left the club (incl. loan spells) has had between apps for the Red Devils in the competition. Return. #MUNWOL
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 3, 2022
Rangnick to MUTV on starting Jones: “He was extremely professional all the time even when he wasn’t in the squad. We knew since last night our other two centre backs that played against Burnley were out, so for me it was the logical choice”
— Charlotte Duncker (@CharDuncker) January 3, 2022
Good luck to Phil Jones today. Regardless what anyone may make of his quality, a horrible few years through injury and clearly been a mighty battle for him to recover to the point he’s able to start a Premier League game again.
— Adam Crafton (@AdamCrafton_) January 3, 2022
Man United vs. Wolves lineups
Man United manager Ralf Rangnick has taken the bold step of dropping Bruno Fernandes, who missed the last match due to suspension, but only returns to the bench. There seems to be no place for the natural No. 10 in Rangnick’s rigid 4-4-2 formation.
The match is also the first start for Phil Jones since 2020, with Harry Maguire missing due to injury.
Man United starting lineup (4-4-2): De Gea (GK) — Shaw, Jones, Varane, Wan-Bissaka — Greenwood, Matic, McTominay, Sancho — Ronaldo, Cavani.
Man United subs (9): Henderson (GK), Telles, Dalot, Elanga, Van de Beek, Fred, Lingard, Fernandes, Rashford.
Bruno Lage makes only two changes from the draw with Chelsea, as Francisco Trincao and Nelson Semedo coming into the side.
Wolves starting lineup (4-4-2): Jose Sa (GK) — Kilman, Coady, Saiss — Marcal, Neves, Moutinho, Trincao, Semedo — Jimenez, Podence.
Wolves subs (9): Ruddy (GK), Hoever, Alt-Nouri, Jordao, Silva, Dendoncker, Traore, Cundle, Bueno.
How to watch Man United vs. Wolves
- Date: Monday, Jan. 3
- Time: 12:30 p.m. ET
- TV Channel: USA Network
- Spanish-language TV: Universo
- Streaming: fuboTV, NBCSports.com (authenticated users)
Subscribers to cable, satellite or telco packages can also watch on NBCSports.com with authentication.
Man United vs. Wolves betting lines & odds
Odds courtesy of DraftKings
- Moneyline: Man United -150 / Draw +950 / Wolves +450
- Spread: Man United -0.5 (-150) / Wolves +0.5 (+130)
- O/U 2.5 total goals: Over +120 / Under -145
- Both teams to score: Yes +105 / No -135