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Premier League Preview: Manchester United vs. Cardiff City

Jan 28, 2014, 8:36 AM EDT

Ole-Gunnar-Solskjaer-3065784 Getty Images
  • Manchester United’s 37 points through 22 matches are fewest for club in history of the Premier League.
  • Cardiff last won at Old Trafford in 1954.
  • Craig Pawson’s your referee

Manchester United’s relative struggles at Old Trafford inspired podcasters The Football Ramble to hilariously search for a new nickname for the building, but Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s return to the building as Cardiff City manager will bring plenty of positive memories and familiar faces into the Theater of Dreams on Tuesday. (Watch at 2:45pm ET on on NBC Sports Live Extra).

And while “LOL’D Trafford” and “The Al Ferguson Loser Dome” are worth a few laughs, surely Red Devils supporters haven’t been giggling it up as their team was booted from the League Cup at home and losing three of five Premier League fixtures at their former fortress.

Enter Solskjaer, who scored 91 goals over 10 years for Manchester United and comes with an unknown number of old friends. There’s former Manchester United youth star Magnus Wolff Eikrem and recent Red Devils red cardee Fabio in addition to on-loan Wilfried Zaha as Solskjaer stocks Vincent Tan’s cupboard with players he knows from his days developing players in Manchester.

Despite all that familiarity, it’s a new face who deserves all the run. Juan Mata will don the No. 8 as he’s expected to make his bow after leaving the clutches of Jose Mourinho at the bargain basement price of 37.1 million pounds (which could buy you 211 average houses in Manchester).

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Cardiff’s picked up a pair of road FA Cup wins at Newcastle and Bolton but hasn’t won away from home in the Premier League in eight matches, since a 2-1 win at Craven Cottage in late September. They haven’t won at all in PL play in six tries, dating back to a 1-0 win over fellow strugglers West Bromwich Albion on Dec. 14.

What They’re Saying

Cardiff boss Solskjaer on returning to Old Trafford: “I have always had a great relationship with Manchester United’s fans. Back in Norway, when we’ve been watching United games over the years, I’ve nudged the kids and said: ‘They are still singing about your dad.’ I am not that emotional a man so it is hard to say how I will feel. You never know. Sometimes, it just catches you, doesn’t it? Like when you do your wedding speech.”

Mata upon his arrival at Manchester United: “I would like to win the Premier League here, it’s a very special trophy for every player who plays in this country and it would be amazing, and I think at this club you can achieve it because this club is used to winning leagues and I will try my best. Obviously I’m still young and I’ve been lucky to win some trophies but I want to win lots more.”

Prediction

There are some who say Manchester United’s leaky defense will prevent them from a return to Champions League football, but Mata’s arrival and Wayne Rooney‘s expected return make them dangerous even if Robin van Persie isn’t ready today (which he just may be). Whether you’re calling it the “Theater of Dreams” or the “Theater of Screams,” it’ll be rowdy tonight. I would not dream of betting against Manchester United here. In fact, here’s my proffer: two goals to the good for the Red Devils. 3-1 your final.