It was job done for United in the Champions League on Wednesday evening. A clean sheet, 3 points and no injuries is the least Mourinho would have hoped for. But strong performances from the full backs, Paul Pogba continuing his good form and a welcome return to the line-up for Anthony Martial was the icing on the cake. The focus is back to domestic duties as United finally return to Old Trafford with Wolves the visitors.
Mourinho is forced into at least one change from Wednesday as Nemanja Matic sits out following his red card at Vicarage Road. Marouane Fellaini is likely to replace the Serbian international. Fred was poor in the first half in Switzerland, but his second-half cameo was much improved and may have saved his spot for one more game at least. The other midfield spot will no doubt go to the in-form Pogba, fresh from 2 more goals and an assist against Young Boys.
In defence, with Antonio Valencia carrying a knock, there seems to be no reason other than fatigue, that Diogo Dalot does not continue at right back and the other 3 pick themselves. Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof seem to be forming a solid partnership following a run of games and Luke Shaw showed no adverse effect from his concussion.
The main decision will be on the front 3. Romelu Lukaku is a definite pick. Anthony Martial was quiet first half but excellent in the second and probably deserves another start based on that. Marcus Rashford, like so many, struggled on the right all game, so likely to be replaced either by Jesse Lingard or Alexis Sanchez. If it is the latter, Mourinho should force him to start on the right, rather than Martial.
Key tactical decisions
Wolves have started the season strongly and look likely to easily avoid a relegation battle this season. Nuno Espirito Santo’s side have already earned a great draw at home to City, and a couple of important wins against West Ham and more recently Burnley. More importantly to United, they have done so playing some attractive football. Ruben Neves has continued where he left off from the Championship, whilst adding compatriot Joao Moutinho to the midfield. The 2 of them are great technicians and control the play for the newly promoted side. For United, only Pogba can come close to the number of passes and accuracy these 2 have provided this season.
This will be an important tactical battle for Mourinho to win. He will focus on breaking the rhythm of the 2 Portuguese internationals and will go along way to winning this game. Matic will be a huge miss and whilst Fellaini will do a job in this role, I would like to see Herrera brought back into the side alongside the Belgian. Bringing in Herrera to replace Fred will give United extra defensive qualities and best chance to gain control in the middle of the park. Herrera possesses decent passing ability and rarely looks to overcomplicate matter, giving the ball to the danger men in attack.
Wolves have opted for 3 at the back for most of this season and tend to overload down the flanks with the wingbacks plus Diogo Jota and Helder Costa in support. The full-back area will be another key area to overcome. Looking at the heat maps for the Wolves against Burnley, the wide area is a key offensive tactic for them, especially with the physicality that Raul Jimenez possesses.
Shaw and Dalot were brilliant at both ends of the pitch on Wednesday, but Mourinho will possibly look to not push too much on Dalot, too soon. If this is the case, Ashley Young will more than likely fill in against Wolves. This will not take anything away from the offensive side, but in defence, he sometimes can be caught out of position. Completely understandable for a winger converted to a full-back.
For this reason, Martial and Rashford may be at risk of returning to the bench for the more defensively able and willing, Jesse Lingard and Alexis Sanchez. This would be a negative approach but understandable until United manage to get a foothold in the game. It was no surprise to see Martial express himself much more once United were 2 goals to the good against Young Boys. Once the game opened up and the counter-attack became a huge weapon, Martial came into his own and could be better as an impact sub on Saturday afternoon.
United seem to have found some form following back to back defeats earlier in the season. Mourinho has somehow turned his and the team’s fortunes around and full credit to him for managing it. I would expect United to be too strong for Wolves at home but will need to win the midfield battle to ensure it is not another tough afternoon at home. There are plenty of option available to Mourinho which is where he is at his best and I think United will make it 4 wins on the spin and keep the momentum up.