James CookeManchester United vs Cardiff, Sunday, May 12th, 10:00 am, Old Trafford. Manchester United look to end a tumultuous season on a high against already-relegated Cardiff, and confirm automatic qualification for next year’s Europa League.
Manchester United look to end a tumultuous season on a high against already-relegated Cardiff, and confirm automatic qualification for next year’s Europa League.
From the discord at the end of Jose Mourinho’s tenure to the early optimism under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – and the doubt that has surrounded the Norwegian in the last two months of the season – it’s been a season of rancour at Old Trafford.
Solskjaer’s storming start after succeeding Mourinho has given way to a dire streak to end 2018-19, with United going into the final day visit of Cardiff without a win in five games, and a series of patchy results even before then. It’s almost as if United gave so much in overturning a first leg defeat to Paris Saint-Germain that they had nothing left in the tank for the rest of the campaign.
United lost four out of five after beating PSG in Paris, took three points against West Ham in mid-April and haven’t won since. They were eliminated from the Champions League by Barcelona and from Champions League qualification by their own lacklustre performances, leaving Solskjaer and the United hierarchy with much to ponder over the summer. It’s shaping up to be a crucial few months for United’s long-term future.
Cardiff’s future is a lot clearer, and it begins with a return to the Championship. The Welsh side were beset by tragedy part-way through the season and, all things considered, have made a decent fist of the relegation battle. To be in with a chance of staying up in the final few games is probably what Neil Warnock was targeting, it just proved to be a game too far for his hard-working side.
Even with the end of the season looming it’s hard to see Cardiff finding the quality to beat United at Old Trafford, particularly with United stung by recent results. A number of United players are left with something to prove after the way the campaign tailed off, and this is the chance to end on a high and perhaps save their United futures.
Cardiff will put up a fight but United will feel they can end with a show and send their supporters into the summer in a better mood. A 4-1 home win could be on the cards.
Cardiff have conceded almost 70 goals in their 37 league games, and United have more firepower than they’ve shown in recent weeks. The relevant bookmakers expect a deluge of goals – although, as only one top half team has conceded more league goals than United, Cardiff might feel they can grab a goal themselves.
Jesse Lingard has come in for significant criticism from some sections of United’s supporters in the recent bad run of results, and the England international isn’t a youngster any more – it’s time to prove he deserves to be part of the United squad Solskjaer hopes to build.
Head to Head
The reverse fixture was Solskjaer’s first as United manager, and the resulting 5-1 win seemed like the start of something beautiful.
Cardiff haven’t beaten United since 1960 and haven’t held United to a draw since 2013.
Solskjaer managed Cardiff between January and September 2014, with the Bluebirds ending the 2013-14 season bottom of the Premier League.
He was in charge of 30 games as Cardiff manager, winning nine, drawing five and losing 16.
No team in the Premier League has had fewer touches of the ball this season than Cardiff, with 17,099. United have had 25,666 – still some way of Manchester City’s 31,821.
Paul Pogba has had the most shots of any United player this season, with 98. He’s scored 13 times.
Aspiring football journalist who realised he could put his vast knowledge towards gambling and making some money. With years spent on Football Manager, his boyhood obsession has carried over into his adult life and he's proven his mum that all that time spent playing a game wasn't to be wasted. A European football expert, James writes about anything on the continent and has began expanding his knowledge to other leagues in South America, Asia and the USA.