Manchester United vs. Cardiff, Sunday 12th May, 15:00
After a dismal run of seven defeats from nine matches across all competitions, a draw hosting Chelsea appeared a step at least roughly in the right direction, even if it did practically end our faint top-four hopes.
That ambition was finally put to bed last week away at Huddersfield, which opened up greater cause for alarm as it was the first time this season that the Terriers have taken points off one of the ‘Big Six’. Cardiff are yet to manage that feat, but Neil Warnock won’t allow his team to down tools despite their confirmed relegation.
Frankly, this is probably the best chance they’ve had against one of the big guns all season, despite coming into it off the back of nine defeats from their last 11 matches themselves.
Our best displays under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer were laden with pace and vigour on the break and with the Norwegian set to ring the changes, we’d expect a youthful and athletic side to feature at Old Trafford on Sunday.
That should cause the Bluebirds some problems, though Warnock has a fairly negative and passive approach that won’t leave too much space behind the defence to exploit with speed on the counter. Instead, they’ll pack the midfield, most likely in a 4-2-3-1 with a defensive double pivot, and that may well contribute to a low-scoring affair.
In his post-match comments following the Huddersfield debacle, Solskjaer made the rather ominous statement that “there is a chance you’ve seen the last of [some] players”. The Norwegian said he “can’t talk about individuals”, though the question he was asked contained reference to serial underperformer and high earner Alexis Sanchez.
With the Chilean and Romelu Lukaku injury concerns ahead of this game, expect the attack to have a new feel to it. Sanchez was hooked at half-time against Huddersfield for 19-year-old academy graduate Tahith Chong, while young striker Mason Greenwood was awarded Premier League 2 player of the month for April and should expect to be involved in some capacity.
Each of Cardiff’s last 10 road trips have seen fewer than four goals and each of the past five have seen just two goals or less. With that in mind, the odds for unders/overs appear misplaced, especially given the Bluebirds’ most recent encounters with the ‘Big Six’ home or away.
Their last five such games have all seen three goals or fewer, with the last two seeing them go down 2-0 to Man City and Liverpool, so we’re not quite sure why the bookies fancy us to be the exception. We haven’t created enough chances recently and though an inexperienced side should be given encouragement from the fans, they shouldn’t be expected to take a more battle-hardened team to the cleaners.
*all odds are subject to change