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Friday, December 9, 2011
Previewing United vs. Wolves


In the wake of a shocking Champions League elimination, Manchester United returns to Premier League play against Wolverhampton on Saturday morning (9:55 a.m. ET on ESPN2 and ESPN3), looking to gain ground on league leader Manchester City before Roberto Mancini's side visits Chelsea on Monday. Here are five notes for the Manchester United-Wolverhampton match at Old Trafford.

•  On Wednesday, Manchester United became the first Champions League finalist to be eliminated in the group stage the next season. If there's a tarnished silver lining to this massive disappointment, perhaps it is this: The last time United was ousted in the group stage was 2005-06, and the Red Devils went undefeated in their next 10 games in all competitions, including seven straight league matches.

•  United is struggling to find goals, scoring exactly once in seven straight matches, the club's longest single-season streak without multiple goals since 1991-92. Wolverhampton may be the tonic for United's ills, because Mick McCarthy's side has allowed at least two goals in nine of its last 11 games and hasn't posted a shutout since Aug. 27.

•  The last time Manchester United and Wolverhampton met was at Molineux on Feb. 5, when Wolves won 2-1 to end Manchester United's 24-match undefeated start to the season. But Wolverhampton has lost five straight league games at Old Trafford, scoring only once and surrendering 14 goals.

•  Wolverhampton has also lost five straight away games and sits two spots clear of the relegation zone. But that 16th-place standing is actually the club's best position through 14 games in any of their four Premier League seasons. Wolverhampton also has more wins (4), points (14) and goals (15) than at this stage in any previous Premier League campaign. The team was relegated after ending 2003-04 at the bottom of the table and survived each of the last two seasons, finishing in 15th and 17th place.

•  Make sure you tune in for the first half. Manchester United is second in the league with 12 first-half goals and has the best first-half goal difference (plus-12) of any Premier League squad. Wolverhampton has allowed the most goals in the first half (15) and has the worst first-half goal difference in the league (minus-10). United also has the second-best goal difference in the second half (plus-6), but trails leader Manchester City by a stunning 19 goals.