Wolves legend Kenny Hibbitt believes Raul Jimenez could be the key to toppling Manchester United – because he plays like a young Wayne Rooney.
Hibbitt has been hugely impressed with the impact of Jimenez, who is set to become the club’s £30m record signing after scoring 14 goals this season on loan from Benfica.
The double League Cup winner says the Mexican’s insatiable workrate is a throwback to the United and England record scorer when he burst on the scene.
“I like Jimenez for the reason that he never stops working and never lets defenders settle – he’s like a wasp, on top of them and all around them,” said Hibbitt.
“Fans want to see players who work their socks off and he certainly does that.
“I love watching him play because he just puts his gear on and plays like he’s playing in the park, a bit like Wayne Rooney did he first came on to the scene.
“His body language is very good and Manchester United have got to keep a tight rein on him because he will be a real threat.”
Hibbitt also believes Jimenez shows the characteristics of Wolves’ greatest goalscorers.
“He’s like John Richards and Steve Bull in that he’s in the six-yard box and the 18-yard box when he needs to be, but he’s also got this great work ethic,” he said.
“That’s great for the midfield players because he’s always available, whether it be to feet or running down the sides.
“John was similar – he got in the box, but he also read the game well, he was strong and brave and he was a great finisher, the best I played with. You knew every week what you would get from him.
“When he was fit, he would be the first name on the teamsheet, and, as a midfielder, it was nice to see him out there, because when he wasn’t you would miss him.
“It’s the same with Jimenez; if he wasn’t available, Wolves would miss him because of his workrate and goals.
“You have to ask yourself, where would Wolves be without his goals?”
Jimenez and Diogo Jota have scored 17 goals in 20 games between them since the formation switch brought them together as a double act for the 2-1 win against Chelsea on December 5.
Hibbitt has examined their partnership and believes it offers defenders no peace.
“I watched them closely and one goes in tight, the other is right behind, so they go in as a pair,” he said.
“Straight after Jimenez goes in, Jota is there to close him down. That’s how Nuno has got his team set up, with everyone working hard for each other.”
Hibbitt believes the tie will be a close affair – but has spotted a potential chink in United’s armour for Wolves to exploit.
“If they go about it in the right manner and close down players like they have done all season, United could be in for a surprise,” he said.
“I think United struggle at defending set-pieces, particularly corners, and with the quality Wolves have got, they can put balls in dangerous areas and cause problems, especially if the big lads come up from the back. I think that could be a very important area of the game.
“But Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has got United firing so it will be difficult for both teams.
“I think it will be a close, tight game, not necessarily an entertaining game, so when chances come, they have to take them because I don’t think there will be many.
“On paper, it’s the bets quarter-final we’re going to watch. And as it’s on our ‘middin’ – Bradford speak for home ground, that could swing it our way.”
Having spent 16 years at Molineux from 1968-84, Hibbitt is one of Wolves’ longest serving players of all time.
But despite living in the West Country for the last three decades, he has become more of a Wolves fan than ever since Nuno’s arrival.
“I like watching Wolves,” he said. “I can’t criticise them in any way, shape or form. To do what they have done coming out of the Championship, they have adapted so well because it’s always a difficult jump.
“There’s still a way to go yet but they’re probably one of the best sides to have come out of the Championship.
“They have a squad of players all ready to pull for each other. That comes from the manager and coaches and having half decent players, so Wolves have got the full monty.”
Hibbitt was only on the losing side in an FA Cup quarter-final once in four attempts at Wolves – and that was to United, after a replay in 1976.
So he is hoping the boot is on the other foot this time.
“We had done the hard bit, getting a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford,” he recalled. “So we expected to beat them at Molineux but ended up losing 3-2 after extra-time.
“I think we owe them one for that, and let’s hope this is the one.”
- Kenny Hibbitt will be signing copies of his autobiography, Seasons Of My Life, at the Electric Club, St Marks Road, Chapel Ash, WV3 0QH from 3.30pm-5.30pm before the game. Grab a selfie, have a chat and buy a book. The hardback publication is priced at £20.00.