Wolves and Manchester United are set to lock horns for the 100th time in history this weekend for the chance to make it into the semi-finals of the FA Cup. Here are five things to look out for at Molineux on Saturday night as the home side aim to make it through a quarter-final for the first time since 1998.
1. A CENTURY OF HISTORY
In the previous 99 matches between Wolves and United, it’s the visitors who hold the advantage, winning just under half of the clashes. In the FA Cup, the two sides have met eight times, with Wolves progressing from two of those matches - coming in the 1949 semi-final (1-0 in a replat at Goodison Park after a 1-1 draw after extra time at Hillsborough) with Wolves going on to win the final, and a third-round tie in 1973. This is the second game between the current Wolves and United sides, following the 1-1 draw at Old Trafford in September where Joao Moutinho cancelled out Fred’s opener.
2. A NEW WOLVES
Each of Wolves’ last four FA Cup quarter-finals have come as a second-tier club, progressing from only one of those four ties – the infamous 1-0 victory over Premier League outfit Leeds United in 1998. The last time a top-flight Wolves side have made the quarter-finals was back in 1980, beating Middlesbrough 3-1 after extra time in a home replay after a 1-1 away draw. While we must go back all the way to the 1960 FA Cup victory for the last time Wolves played an FA Cup game at Wembley, but this is a new Wolves. If Nuno Espirito Santo’s team are able to get past United and reach Wembley, they will also become the first side to knock both Liverpool and Manchester United out of an FA Cup campaign since Everton in 2009.
3. NUNO VS OLE
Although it’s only his second FA Cup campaign, Nuno has history of taking an ‘underdog’ all the way to a domestic cup competition final. While he was in charge of Rio Ave, Nuno’s team reached the Taca de Portugal final, but were beaten by a Benfica side who had a certain Ivan Cavaleiro on the bench. In the opposite dugout on Saturday will sit Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The former United striker played in three FA Cup finals, winning the trophy in 1999 and 2004, but finished on the losing team in 2007 – the final competitive appearance of his playing career. The two men have previously been on opposing sides just once as players, with Nuno coming out on top. Both Nuno and Solskjaer appeared from the bench in RC Deportivo’s 3-2 victory against Manchester United at Old Trafford in the 2001/02 Champions League group stage, with goalkeeper Nuno keeping a clean sheet as a half-time substitute when the game was at 2-2.
4. RUDDY REMAINS
Not one for announcing his team before a match, Nuno had already decided that John Ruddy will maintain his place in goal for Saturday’s game, as he has done in all of Wolves’ four previous FA Cup ties this season. With no fresh injury worries, Nuno has a full squad to chose from as Ryan Bennett’s two-game suspension only sees the defender miss Premier League matches. Romain Saiss deputised on the right-side of the back three against Chelsea, but will the Wolves head coach revert to his tried and tested defence for the arrival of Manchester United?
While the United boss has been forced into a change in his defence with Ashley Young suspended for the quarter-final tie. The England full-back will serve a one-match ban after picking up a second yellow card of the competition against Chelsea in the last round. With Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian both injured, Solskjaer may turn to Diogo Dalot as the likely replacement for Young. There are doubts over the availability of Alexis Sanchez, who was injured in United’s recent victory over Southampton, and Romelu Lukaku, who has a sore foot, while Phil Jones, Ander Herrera, Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard have all taken part in training this week.
5. HOME ADVANTAGE
With Wolves on the verge of making modern history, Nuno, Diogo Jota and Matt Doherty have all called for the Molineux supporters to play their part in helping the team reach the semi-finals of the FA Cup. Jota believes playing at home could prove to hold an advantage over United, while Doherty is preparing for an ‘electric’ atmosphere under the Molineux lights. Wolves have already experienced two packed houses at their home stadium in the FA Cup this season, helping them to victories over Liverpool and Shrewsbury, with the Wolves right wing-back revelling in the FA Cup so far. Doherty has been involved in more FA Cup goals than any other player among teams left in the competition, including Wolves’ last five in the cup, with three goals and two assists to his name.