Manchester United were back at Old Trafford on Saturday after three back to back away wins which also included a great 3-0 victory against Young Boys in the Champions League. High flying Wolves were in the town who themselves had gained momentum after two consecutive 1-0 wins over West Ham and Burnley.
Valencia Smalling Lindelof Shaw
Fred Fellaini Pogba
Lingard Lukaku Sanchez
Wolves are a not your usual small club which goes away to a top-six club and parks the bus and looks for a tame draw. Instead, Wolves came to United and played proper attacking football. They had done a similar thing when they faced Manchester City earlier this season and earned a point against the champions. They started the game on a brighter note and within the first ten minutes, worked the ball out to Raul Jimenez who forced a save out of De Gea. De Gea had to be alert again on a corner when he saved Boly’s header from point-blank range. But as the game progressed, United controlled the possession and started to look for openings.
Mourinho’s men worked the ball on the left-hand side and after some neat combination play between Alexis and Shaw, the former put a tempting cross into the box which was half cleared by the Wolves defenders. But what followed next was a moment of absolute magic from Paul Pogba who took the deftest of touches and fooled the entire Wolves backline to set up Fred. The Brazilian turned swiftly and took a shot from the edge of the box. The ball arrowed into the bottom corner and just like that, it was the first goal for the former Shakhtar man.
At the stroke of half-time, Alexis Sanchez was brought down the edge of the box and gave Pogba one last chance before the break to double United’s lead. But surprisingly, Fred took the free kick and his left-footed curler was saved brilliantly by Rui Patricio.
United faithful thought United will get another goal in the second half but it was the Wolves who started the second half with more desire and soon, had the ball in the back of De Gea’s net. Helder Costa drilled a low cross into the box which found Jimenez who shielded it away from Lindelof before laying it off for Joa Moutinho. The Portuguese veteran unleashed a rocket of a shot into the top right-hand corner to make it 1-1.
What followed for the next half an hour or so had put every fan inside Old Trafford at the edge of their seats. It was the end to end stuff where Wolves looked to absorb pressure from United and then looked to hit out swiftly on the counter-attack. The likes of Lukaku and Fellaini had half chances but the Wolves stood tall and saw out the game for the visitors. Traore came late on as a sub and almost gave the Wolves a shock win, only to denied by the best goalkeeper in the world.
The 1-1 draw ended the winning streak for Mourinho but it’s not the end of the world. Yes, United should have won the match at Old Trafford but people underestimated Wolves and tend to forget that they are a very good side who will go out and trouble a lot of top sides in the league this season.
David De Gea(GK) : 9/10
De Gea was at his usual best and made 7 saves in the game. He was commanding from the set pieces as well where he dealt with the likes of Coady and Boly brilliantly.
Antonio Valencia(RB) : 3/10
Valencia had one of his worst performance in a United shirt as a right back. He was constantly found out by Jota and also didn’t contribute much going forward. Many a time he had a chance to beat his opposing full back and whip a cross in but time and time again, he chose the easier option and passed the ball back in midfield.
Chris Smalling(CB): 7/10
Smalling hardly did anything wrong during the game and dealt nicely with the height of Jimenez in the box. He couldn’t have done anything for the Wolves equalizer.
Victor Lindelof(CB): 6/10
Lindelof looked comfortable with the ball at his feet and at times, stepped into the midfield to find the likes of Sanchez or Shaw on the left-hand channel.
Luke Shaw(LB): 8/10
Shaw continued his brilliant form of the season as he gave yet another top performance. He was booked at the end of the first half but dealt very well with the Costa and even with a pacy Traore late in the second half. He assisted his teammates in the attacking third as he looked to find the forwards with his crosses. He could have had an assist to his name as well when one of his outstanding crosses found Fellaini on the far post, only for the Belgian to head straight at Patricio.
Marouane Fellaini(CDM): 8/10
Matic’s suspension meant that Fellaini was given the responsibility of breaking down the Wolves attack from the center of the park. Many believed that this wasn’t the game for Fellaini as he would be facing the likes of Neves and Moutinho. But the Belgian didn’t put a foot wrong in the entire game. He seems to be reborn as a defensive midfielder this season.
The Brazilian scored his first United goal and also impressed in the first half with his quick interplay and long range passing. He was subbed around the hour mark for Juan Mata as Mourinho chased for an equalizer.
Paul Pogba(LCM): 9/10
Pogba has been one of the best players for the Red Devils this season and he continued his rich vein of form against Nuno Santo’s men. He was at the center of everything good that happened with United and even had an other-worldly assist to his name.
Alexis Sanchez(LW): 5/10
Sanchez tried really hard but couldn’t find an opening for himself. His link-up play with Shaw on the left wing was quite impressive but at times, lost the ball when United looked to hit Wolves on the break. He was replaced by Martial on the hour mark.
Jesse Lingard(RW): 5/10
Lingard was rested against Young Boys but this rest didn’t seem to benefit him much as he looked offbeat against Wolves. He constantly moved into the central attacking areas and didn’t provide width on the right-hand side. His link-up play with Lukaku was also not up to the mark which allowed Wolves to break down United’s attack with ease.
Romelu Lukaku(ST): 3/10
Lukaku probably had the worst game of his United career so far. Nothing worked out for the Belgian on Saturday. He was unable to hold the ball as he was bullied by the likes of Coady and Boly. In the second half, he had a great chance to pounce on a bouncing ball and volley it home from close range but he just took too much time to think about it, allowing the defenders to clear it. He also missed a simple header from six yards out, but the linesman raised her flag to save the Belgian from the embarrassment.