Manchester United had to settle for a draw after being pegged by Wolves on Monday night, a Ruben Neves stunner equalising for the hosts after Anthony Martial had given the Red Devils an early lead, with Rui Patricio also saving Paul Pogba’s second half penalty.
The game started slowly, with United dominating the early possession. However, the first chance came after 20 minutes, as Marcus Rashford created space for himself on the left, before picking out an unmarked Martial, who couldn’t make a solid connection.
He made no mistake next time round, however. On 27 minutes, Rashford slid through Martial, who fired into the roof of the net. United dominated the rest of the half, with the Wolves players beginning to show their frustration.
Wanderers came out flying in the second half, and it didn’t take them long to get the stadium rocking. First, a glorious Raul Jimenez header hit the post, and then Neves scored a typically sensational goal from the edge of the area – a right footed curler that left David de Gea with no chance.
In a frantic second half, United were awarded a penalty, which Paul Pogba won and took. However, Patricio produced a magnificent save to keep the scores level. The game became an end-to-end affair, with United having the better chances, but they were unable to find a winner.
Key Talking Point
Nuno Espirito Santo had the luxury of resting the majority of his first team for their fixture against Pyunik on Thursday, and as expected the star names returned on Monday night. However, they were unable to get into their normal fluid rhythm in the first half.
The most concerning thing as far as ?Wolves fans are concerned is that their usually reliable defence looked shaky and penetrable. Willy Boly misjudged the flight of the ball early on, giving Martial a glorious chance to give United the lead. However, it was the lack of communication between Conor Coady and Ryan Bennett only ten minutes later that let the Frenchman in once again – this time, he made it count.
The defensive woes continued, as Matt Doherty was forced off at half-time through injury. The struggles at the back meant the ball was constantly being recycled by the Red Devils, and Wolves’ midfield weren’t able to dictate the tempo of the game. However, a blistering start to the second half saw them draw level within a matter of moments. The resilience of Nuno’s men was put to the test, but they once again passed the test with a strong second half showing.
Starting XI: Patricio (7); Bennett (5), Coady (5), Boly (6); Doherty (4), Dendoncker (7*), Neves (7), Joao Moutinho (6), Jonny (6); Jimenez (6), Jota (5).
Substitutes: Traore (7), Pedro Neto (6), Cutrone (N/A).
STAR MAN – It was a truly outrageous goal from Neves, but it was Leander Dendoncker who put in a strong showing in midfield. His work often goes unnoticed, but his tireless work ethic and pressing was crucial to keeping Wolves in the match in the first half. He was fundamental in restricting United to just a handful of chances, despite them dominating the opening 45.
As Nuno’s men made a strong start to the second half, Dendoncker kept the team ticking over and gave the forwards a chance to become more of a presence. His link-up play with substitute Adama Traore was also impressive, the Spaniard posing a threat up and down the right wing. At £12m, Dendoncker has proven to be a very shrewd piece of business.
Key Talking Point
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made the bold decision to name a very attacking starting lineup, dropping Andreas Pereira and replacing him with Daniel James. The 21-year-old was quiet in the opening exchanges, and struggled to really get into the game. However, his defensive work was highly impressive, helping nullify any Wolves attacks.
The Red Devils were faced with a different prospect to the Chelsea test, as they were tasked with taking the game to Wolves in the first half. The players looked lively, with Rashford and Martial putting in strong showings.
However, Solskjaer’s men struggled to deal with the early pressure in the second half. The defence looked rattled and it appeared as though Wolves would capitalise and continue their fine run against United. However, fans can take heart from the resilience shown to dig in as United began to assert themselves again – until Pogba missed the penalty.
Rashford comfortably dispatched his spot kick against Chelsea and there was some social media reaction to Pogba taking responsibility instead. However, although they weren’t able to claim a win, it was another indicator of a young ?United side coming of age.
Starting XI: De Gea (6); Wan-Bissaka (6), Lindelof (6), Maguire (6), Shaw (6); McTominay (6), Pogba (4); James (6), Lingard (5), Rashford (7); Martial (8*).
Substitutes: Mata (6), Pereira (N/A), Greenwood (N/A).
STAR MAN – Martial was unable to get involved in the opening exchanges, but the Frenchman took his chance when it came. It was a ruthless and top class finish from a man who had barely touched the ball up until that point. It was a true number nine’s goal.
From that moment, his whole game improved and he caused the three Wolves defenders numerous problems. His link-up play with Rashford and Lingard would have been a pleasing sight for Solskjaer and the coaching staff, as he continues to repay the faith showed in him by the manager.
Martial’s tendency to fade in and out of games has been a major worry for United, but he’s proving to be more consistent and as a result, much more of a threat in matches.
Wolves will travel to face Torino on Thursday in the first leg of their play-off Europa League tie. They will then come back and play host to Burnley on Sunday.
United, meanwhile, host Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Saturday, before travelling to face Southampton the following Saturday.