The Solkjaer era suffered its first major setback when, at the weekend, United lost 2-0 to Arsenal at the Emirates. It was only the second defeat of the Norwegian’s Old Trafford tenure, the first coming at home to PSG which they so thrillingly overturned last week at the Parc de Princes to qualify for the last eight of the Champions League.
There were of course mitigating circumstances around the defeat in north London – and the mental and physical toll of that defeat in Paris was there for all to see – but United will be desperate to not lose any of the momentum gained since the departure of Jose Mourinho.
An FA Cup semi-final place would also be another step on the road to Solkjaer getting the top job on a permanent basis, something that is now looking increasingly likely with odds as short as -1000 .
Standing their way is a Wolves side who have exceeded all expectations this season and are locked in the battle to be the best of the rest – otherwise known as seventh place in the Premier League. Manager Nuno Espírito Santo has compiled – at considerable cost it has to be said – a squad full of internationals, many of them Portuguese, who have combined perfectly with a fair sprinkling of quality British and Irish talent.
TOP TIP! – Man Utd to win 3-1 @ +1800 / Utd to win and both teams to score @ +360
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They are currently ‘the best of the rest’ for a reason and with the funds at their disposable have genuine expectations of gate-crashing in the next few seasons, and all by playing a brand of football that is both exciting and pleasing on the eye. The Wolves fans are already in dreamland and if they could somehow conjure up a Wembley semi-final, that would be another huge step on their thrilling journey.
Also, unlike many teams outside of the EPL’s top six, Wolves have no reason not to go ‘all guns blazing’ at the FA Cup and, minus even the faintest fear of relegation, they will field their strongest XI against United.
With the FA Cup offering United their best chance of winning a trophy this season, this promises to be a proper cup tie with both sides going for broke. Also, with there being no replays at this stage of the FA Cup – no replays in this season’s competition from the fifth round onwards – there is extra incentive for both sides to ‘go for it’, which will make for an open, attacking cup tie.
United’s front two, of Marcus Rashford and Romelu Lukaku, have forged a bona fide partnership under Solkjaer and their success, or otherwise, up against Connor Coady and co will ultimately decide the outcome of this tie. Wolves though will create chances and any midfield that contains João Moutinho and Rúben Neves can hurt teams.
There are worse bets than Wolves for the straight win – on offer at a very reasonable +215 – but with so much riding on this one for United, who’ll be desperate to bounce back from the Emirates disappointment, we’re going for the non-romantic option of an away win.
It will be tight though, and don’t be surprised if this one goes to extra-time, but we think the Red Devils’ extra quality will be the decisive factor. The sudden death scenario should lend itself to an open, attacking game which we think will be edged by the visitors, and the 3-1 on offer from Bet365 at +1800 looks a very worthy shout.
On a similar theme we’re also drawn to the ‘match result with both teams to score market’, which is offered with the United win at a juicy +360 with BetVictor.
TOP TIP! – Man City to win 5-1 @ +2500 / Jesus to score a hat-trick @ +1200
Following their thumping midweek victory over Schalke, which saw them coast through to the last eight of the UEFA Champions League, City’s quest for four trophies this season is still well and truly on.
Swansea, on paper, will offer limited resistance but the Championship side, roared on by a noisy Welsh crowd, will offer Pep Guardiola’s men a stern test. And let’s not forget that last season, City exited the competition at the fifth-round stage in similar circumstances, when they lost 1-0 away at Wigan.
So, while everything points to an away win, those who love a long-shot could do worse than throw their full weight behind Graham Potter’s Swans who, despite being mid-Championship, play an attractive brand of football that Guardiola will approve of.
The stats unsurprisingly favour Man City heavily though and in the two clubs’ last 13 meetings, the Mancunians have won 11 with the other two drawn. Also, Swansea have been eliminated from the FA Cup in six of their last seven ties against Premier League opposition, which doesn’t bode well, although if they were to pull off a shock result it would be their first FA Cup semi-final since 1964.
In terms of team news, Swansea are sweating on the fitness of top scorer Oli McBurnie but are hopeful he will be fit to return after missing the last couple of matches due to illness, although Joe Rodon, Leroy Fer and Martin Olsson will all definitely miss out due to injury.
For City, skipper Vincent Kompany could return to the side after missing the Schalke match through injury, but Fernandinho, Kevin De Bruyne, Benjamin Mendy and Claudio Bravo all remain side-lined.
Swansea, as mention earlier, will only be attractive to those who are either romantics or who love an underdog (or both) and at +2200 even a modest wager will offer the prospect of a decent return, but the stats don’t lie.
Man City are averaging over five goals a game in this season’s competition and, while Swansea have conceded only 46 goals in 36 Championship games, they will face a forward line unlike anything they have faced so far this season.
So, on the basis that a Man City win looks almost inevitable (as short as -900 with some bookmakers) the big question is really how many will they win by?
Given there has to be a result on the day – no replays remember – we expect an open game and therefore wouldn’t be surprised to see a Swansea goal. On the flip-side, Man City put seven past Schalke and are in scintillating form, so the 5-1 +2500 with BetVictor looks excellent value. Also well worthy of consideration is a Gabriel Jesus hat-trick +1200 with Bet365.
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