It’s going to be an odd game this Saturday for Manchester United, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will debut as manager for The Red Devils. He will do it on a semi-known spot: against Cardiff, a team he previously used to manage a few years ago. The former Molde boss already said most players will get the chance to “impress” him duing the festive period. And with such a packed schedule in the coming weeks, we could very well expect a mixed bag on names on the Norwegian’s first game with Manchester United.
But leaving that aside, this should be a huge game for Manchester United. They need as many points as they can get in order to keep challenging for a top-four finish. Something that looks quite distant midway into the season. This upcoming stretch will be key for The Red Devils since they will have four games in an 11-day span. And everything starts at South Wales.
One of the first challenges for Solskjaer will be related to injuries. Romelu Lukaku has already been ruled out since he’s been absent from training all week. Alexis Sanchez continues his recovery process, while Chris Smalling suffered an injury during the warm-ups prior to last weekend’s match against Liverpool- Luke Shaw and Phil Jones have been dealing with injuries as well in recent days. There are good news, though. The likes of Anthony Martial and Victor Lindelof returned against Liverpool, and both should be available for this match on Welsh soil. The same goes for Portuguese full-back Diogo Dalot.
On the other hand, Cardiff won’t have Danny Ward (knee) and Jazz Richards (hamstring). However, left-back Greg Cunningham has recovered from a minor knock and could be an alternative to bolster the defensive line. Joe Bennett has been listed as doubful due to a hip injury. He will be a game-time decision for the coaching staff led by Neil Warnock.
We can’t hide the fact that Manchester United have been inconsistent at the Premier League level. They recently left a four-game undefeated run in the rear view thanks to their 1-3 loss at Anfield this past Sunday. That loss resulted in the sack of Jose Mourinho, and the appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as caretaker manager until the end of the current term. Entering the weekend, The Red Devils sit in sixth place with 26 points (W7, D5, L5). However, they are 11 points behind the Top 4. There’s still more than half of the season to play, but that seems to be a huge challenge for United. Especially if they want to clinch a UEFA Champions League berth for the 2019/20 campaign.
On the other hand, Cardiff seems to be a team on the rise. After starting the current term winless following the first eight Premier League match, they have now won three of their last six matches. As a result, the Welsh side currently sits in 16th place with a two-point edge over the relegation zone, which should be their primary focus going forward. They have gained 14 points from 17 league matches thus far.
What is our all-time record against Cardiff?
United have faced Cardiff 29 times and their record looks impressive: W14, D8, L7. This will be only the second time United makes the trip to Cardiff City Stadium. The first one came during the 2013/14 season where United registered a 2-0 win; Robin van Persie and Ashley Young found the back of the net during that one. Solskjaer was Cardiff’s manager in that game.
Having a new manager should represent enough motivation for Manchester United players entering this one. This will be a new beginning, one where The Red Devils look on top on paper, especially after Cardiff’s recent struggles. With that in mind, we can expect Manchester United to secure three more points in a tough visiting spot.