Wolves 1-1 Manchester United: Fan's Review & Reaction

By Farhaan Ilyas

Our first home Premier League game of the season was played under the lights at a sold-out Molineux live on Sky, and it was against a United side who were oozing confidence coming straight off the back of a resounding 4-0 win against Chelsea. From the very beginning there was the feeling that we were going to have our backs against the walls, despite being the home team. This feeling was true, and as the old saying goes, it was a game of two halves.


The first half was very lacklustre, and not what you would expect from a Nuno Santo Wolves side, there looked to be less organisation than we are used to, and some of the players seemed very jaded and they weren’t putting much pressure on the United players at all. Of course we know that against the top teams Wolves tend to use a deep block with their stubborn back 5, but even with the deep block in use, Wolves were allowing the Manchester United players all the space they wished to have, especially Paul Pogba in his new role as a deep-lying playmaker for Solskjaer’s United, who was allowed to dictate play in the earlier stages of the game, and was allowed time on the ball without any real pressure from the Wolves midfield, who in the first half seemed non-existent. This made you wonder whether it wasn’t a wise decision to have Joao Moutinho playing in the Europa League game vs FC Pyunik, as the signs of tiredness we were all worried about began to show with United having over 60% of possession.

We had been told Matt Doherty had recovered from his knee injury, however he seemed extremely unfit and unready for this challenge, as he wasn’t making those confident bursts forward that we were used to, and his work in the tackle seemed lackadaisical. This was shown with Anthony Martial’s goal in the 27th minute, as Doherty was dragged higher up the pitch but didn’t put a tackle in, leaving space behind which Ryan Bennett poorly attempted to cover, leading the entire defensive line to be dragged across and Martial cleanly finished off the United move, which in reality was their only real chance of the half. Bennett didn’t cover himself in glory during this first half, with mistakes in the build up to the goal, and also an unbelievably bad pass back to Rui Patricio which Martial almost pounced on; if not for his fellow Frenchman Willy Boly excellently getting a foot in as he so often does, and the Spain U21 captain and Real Madrid academy product Jesus Vallejo who was watching on from the stands will be very confident of his chances of getting into, and maintaining his place in the first XI in place of Ryan Bennett.

For the second half, a much-needed change was made with Adama Traore replacing Matt Doherty. From the very first whistle of the second half, Adama looked a threat, and you really could see the panic in the eyes of the opposition every time the ball came to him. He looked calm and composed on the ball, taking his time and ensuring he made the right decisions, whilst maintaining his threat and confidence within his own ability to take on players. This may have been one of the best performances from Adama in a Wolves shirt, and it shows he is worth every single penny of the 18 million pounds paid for him, not only because of his ability on the ball, but also his work rate, desire and attitude to be willing to adapt to this system and play as a wing-back which naturally requires more defensive duties than playing as a winger.

This half was classic Wolves, and unlike the first half, had everything you would expect from this team. The midfield once again looked organised, and the distances between the players and the shape of the team was again compact. There were still sloppy passes being made, but the opposition didn’t look as comfortable on the ball as they had done in the first half. To go with classic Wolves, came the classic Ruben Neves. Live on TV, we all knew it was going to happen, as soon as the ball came out to him. We knew as soon as he took a touch, it was only going to end with him pointing to his head sprinting towards the South Bank. And it did. Neves curled the ball right round the charging United players and over the reach of David De Gea to equalise for Wolves in typical fashion. Then came the VAR check. VAR stopped the celebrations, it will become a problem for football, and thankfully in this instance it didn’t rule out a goal as it did in our first game vs Leicester, but it put a halt on the celebrations which isn’t a good thing for the game and the experience of watching
your team.

Following the Neves goal, the Wolves strategy became about managing the game and keeping it as a draw due to the fact Jota and Jimenez were really having an off day in terms of their attacking output and weren’t firing on all cylinders. It was almost ruined as Coady gave away a penalty (there wasn’t much he could do), and Pogba who won the penalty stepped up. I had full faith in Rui Patricio to save it, and also saw Boly cheekily point to where Pogba was going to hit it, and helped Patricio even more.

Looking at the opposition during the game, Aaron Wan-Bissaka was easily man of the match, making more tackles than anyone, and looking so dominant no matter who was near him, Wolves continued to attack him despite that fact and you would think we would have been better off attacking Luke Shaw who already looked uncomfortable, and who Diogo Jota has previously made a mockery of. Daniel James’ antics were ridiculous and have no place in football, constantly going down so easily. The referee Moss did well to give him the yellow for simulation, however after this James was allowed to go down whenever he wanted to because he knew Moss was never going to give him two yellows both for simulation.

The game then slowed down and the full time whistle came, and it was a good sign for Wolves that they weren’t at the races today and still managed to salvage something from this game against a very good Manchester United team, and it gives us hope for the future that we can build on this and continue the good form and prove last season wasn’t just a fluke and if the Europa League games are managed properly and the players recover well, the dream of breaking into the top six may be alive.


Farhaan is a Wolves fan and Talking Wolves writer. You can follow him here.


Image: Evening Standard

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