The Theatre of Dreams is the venue for Gary O’Neil’s Wolverhampton Wanderers baptism on Monday night, as Manchester United welcome their Midlands counterparts to their headquarters in gameweek one of the Premier League.
Thanks to an impeccable defensive record at their Old Trafford base – conceding a league-low 10 goals in front of their own fans all season long – Man United finished in the bronze medal position behind Arsenal and Manchester City, while also inflicting EFL Cup final misery on Newcastle United to end a six-year silverware drought.
To say that Man United endured a tumultuous pre-season period would be an understatement, as after opening with three successive wins over Leeds United, Lyon and Arsenal, the Red Devils were put to the sword by Wrexham, Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund, although a fledgling XI was fielded against the former.
A 3-1 success over Ligue 1 surprise package Lens followed before Ten Hag’s side capped off their preparations with a 1-1 draw versus Athletic Bilbao, and a seventh successive Premier League home win is now expected to be on the menu for Man United on Monday night.
The Red Devils were only bested on one occasion at Old Trafford in the 2022-23 Premier League, although that did come on the opening weekend against Brighton & Hove Albion, potentially invoking fear in the more superstitious supporters who are also wary of the famed new manager bounce.
United have taken a punt on Danish protege Rasmus Hojlund, but the former Atalanta BC striker will be forced to wait a little while for his debut due to a back injury.
Hojlund is joined in a packed infirmary by Kobbie Mainoo (ankle), Dean Henderson (thigh), Anthony Martial (thigh), Tyrell Malacia (muscle), Thomas Heaton (calf) and Amad Diallo (knee), so the rejuvenated Marcus Rashford should operate at the tip of the hosts’ attack.
Rashford’s 20 home goals across all tournaments in the 2022-23 campaign was second only to the record-breaking Erling Braut Haaland (35) out of all Premier League players, but while Hojlund will watch on from the sidelines, competitive debuts should come the way of Andre Onana and Mason Mount.
Manchester United possible starting lineup:
Onana; Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Martinez, Shaw; Casemiro, Eriksen; Antony, Fernandes, Mount; Rashford