4 February ~ The midweek fixtures saw to it that tomorrow’s tea-time kick-off between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Manchester Utd is a top-versus-bottom encounter. The match is an opportunity for this Manchester Utd vintage to edge one step closer towards being named “the invincibles”. United are now just 14 games away from becoming only the third team in history to be crowned the unbeaten champions of English football. And yet, this is a match that is every bit as important to their opponents.

Wolves find themselves deep in the relegation quagmire and nobody will be expecting much from the home side against the league leaders. Indeed, if you believe the accepted wisdom that it is results against the teams around you that seal your fate, this could be considered a free roll of the dice for Wolves. In truth, it’s all a bit late for that kind of talk. Wolves have already seen Wigan do the double over them and could manage only a solitary point from two encounters with fellow strugglers West Ham.

Fortunately for Mick McCarthy’s side, it’s not all doom and gloom. The reason they are not yet cut adrift is thanks to the unexpected victories that have been picked up along the way. Molineux triumphs over Manchester City and Chelsea, together with a deserved win at Anfield, certainly give the bottom side hope that they can compete against more illustrious opponents.

Although those victories were well earned, one suspects they also betrayed the frailties of the opposition. This Manchester Utd side appears to be a quite different animal. The constant pruning of the squad seems to have little impact on the success of the Big Red Machine – the loss of a Ronaldo or a Tevez merely paving the way for a Nani or a Berbatov to up their game. The feeling persists that Sir Alex Ferguson’s steely determination gives rise to an inner conviction about the team. This was seldom more apparent than in the recent overhauling of a two-goal deficit at Blackpool – a turnaround that was unnerving in its inevitability.

For Wolves to walk off the Molineux turf on Saturday evening with all three points would require the form book to be mutilated beyond recognition, let alone thrown out of a window. Of course, they have been here before. In their first season in the Premier League, Wolves were bottom of the league when Manchester Utd came calling in January 2004. The score? 1-0 to Wolves. McCarthy dare not even dream it. Adam Bate

Comments (6)
Comment by The Exploding Vole 2011-02-04 12:28:33

I didn't realise people were still throwing form books out of windows these days.

Comment by JimDavis 2011-02-04 12:50:53

The only thing you can predict with any certainty is official decisions with favour United just as they did in the games aginst West Brom and Blackpool. Officials with a bit of bottle would have sorted out United's unbeaten record on both days.

Comment by JimDavis 2011-02-04 12:53:16

Did the Premier League not have the "no weakened team" rule in 2004? I don't recall Mr F getting fined that day?

Comment by diem 2011-02-04 17:00:12

JimDavis: Admittedly Ronaldo was only at the start of his United career, Quinton Fortune was always disappointing, and Fletcher was not the player he is today, but the rest of the team cannot really be construed as particularly 'weakened'...

Man Utd: Howard, O'Shea, Ferdinand (Brown 50), Silvestre, Fortune, Fletcher (Bellion 65), Keane, Phil Neville (Forlan 68), Ronaldo, Scholes, Van Nistelrooy.
Subs not used: Butt, Carroll.

Comment by PRB 2011-02-06 18:38:58

Great call in the article headline. Wish I'd taken the advice and put a few quid on them. What a brilliant weekend of goals and results.

Comment by Efficient Baxter 2011-02-07 10:56:10

JimDavies - 'official decisions will favour United'. Well considering Berra should have conceded a penalty every time he tried 'marking' Vidic, perhaps this is not the case after all.
At 15/2 Wolves were just too long not to have a punt on. £75 up on the result, although I would have preferred a much more enjoyable game of football. Still the rest of the day's games filled that niche nicely.

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