Monday night sees Rafa and the lads travelling to the Black Country for a televised clash with Wolverhampton Wanderers.

In typical fashion, SKY TV have bollocks’d up the plans of many with this fixture change. From a personal point of view, it’s particularly galling as a very good pal of mine recently moved to that neck of the woods. It had been pencilled in for ages as a weekend away, peeve and taking in the match. Now, not to be. Cheers for that (again), you tossers.

More importantly, it leaves us having to sweat over the outcome of fixtures around us prior to our kick off. We can’t drop into the bottom three, but we could be perilously close if Cardiff & Burnley manage to scrape away wins. This could all add extra pressure to an already tough looking fixture.

Our opponents have made a very decent fist of their first season back in the top flight. They were purchased back in 2016 by Chinese conglomerate, Fosun International. The new owners have an estimated worth of circa £6 Billion and have transformed the fortunes of this particular sleeping giant. It’s not quite as good as winning the ‘football lottery’ like Man City but it’s close enough. Us maudlin Mags can only watch on in green eyed envy.

Wolves swept to promotion under Portuguese manager, Nuno Santo and currently find themselves in 7th spot with 38 points from 25 played. Whilst we spent last summer gnashing our teeth in frustration at the lack transfer action at St James’ Park, they steamed into the market and picked up some excellent new players.

As Penfold was dicking on for about a month, trying to bring Rondón in on loan, Wolves were spending £50M on the likes of Jota, Patricio and Moutinho. They all appear to have hit the ground running. However, their best import appears to be loan striker, Raul Jiminez from Benfica. He has eleven goals so far and is currently in his best form of the season.

What of United? Following a superb win and performance versus Colin’s Cardiff, we then eclipsed that by vanquishing super Citeh in one of the shocks of the season. Our most recent encounter at Wembley v Spurs was back to our standard Rafa away set up. In a strangely flat encounter, we were well placed for a point until our custodian decided on a Bruce Grobbelaar (ask your fatha) impression with seven minutes to go. I have it on excellent authority that Martin was absolutely distraught & apologetic in the changing room, post match. He shouldn’t feel too bad. In the last year, he’s saved us a damn sight more points than he’s let slip.

From having a team that’s recently picked itself, Rafa has a major selection dilemma back on his hands. He’s got Mutō, returned from the Asia Cup, plus Jonjo and Diame back from injury. He also has new signings, Barreca and more intriguingly, Almirón available. Whatever he does, I hope he keeps Sean Longstaff in his first eleven. The kid’s been a revelation and has his shirt on merit. He thoroughly deserves to be involved at Molineux from the off, in my humble opinion.

The game in December finished 1-2 to Wolves. They were in a slump, having raced out of the blocks at the start of the season. Newcastle looked bloody awful, particularly defensively. Neither side really deserved to win it & 1-1 seemed fair. We let in a soppy one in the last knockings of added on time and had to suffer our usual hard luck tale, after an assault on Perez garnered neither a deserved red or penalty. United will set up just as we did at Spurs, in terms of style. The starting XI will be more interesting. Will Rafa shuffle his pack or not? We’ll soon see.

Prediction time.

Another tough one. Wolves will naturally be favourites, with home advantage and being up at the right end of the league. Newcastle will set up to play in our usual organised style whilst hoping to nick something on the break. I know, I know, I preach this ‘ode to the obvious’ every week, but it’s true! If I was putting money on it, I’d be plumping for a narrow home victory. As ever, I hope I’m totally wrong….

Nick Clark