Mason Greenwood struck a late winner as Manchester United punished a wasteful Wolves side thanks to a narrow 1-0 win at the Molineux.
Wolves had two clear chances to take the lead in a frantic opening to the match. The returning Raul Jimenez saw a low drive saved by David de Gea following a break from Adama Traore before Aaron Wan-Bissaka produced a stunning clearance off the line to deny Trincao after the forward had dribbled past Fred and beaten the United goalkeeper. Romain Saiss had an acrobatic volley that sailed narrowly wide as Wolves continued to dominate.
Trincao had another opportunity midway through the second half following Traore’s cross but he could not connect with the volley, but the clearest opening fell to Saiss from a Wolves corner as De Gea produced a remarkable double save to deny the defender from point-blank range.
The hosts were then punished for failing to take their chances as United broke forward and Greenwood unleashed a fierce right-footed shot from the angle, that Wolves goalkeeper José Sá was unable to keep out despite getting a hand to the strike.
Here are five things we learned.
Manchester United’s midfield leaves defence exposed
If you were wondering why the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo has not done much to change the Premier League title odds (Manchester City and Chelsea remain clear favourites), then the performance of Manchester United’s midfield offered an indication of the shortcomings that still remain in Solskjaer’s side.
Even the staunchest of Fred supporters would have struggled to defend the Brazilian’s first-half display at the Molineux, with the 28-year-old twice giving away possession that led to counter-attacks, which he then failed to shut down.
He was given a torrid time, in particular, by Traore, but he wasn’t given much support by Pogba, his midfield partner, or Fernandes, who was positioned slightly higher. Pogba’s performances on the left so far this season have been highly impressive but this was another reminder of his unsuitability of playing in a midfield two for United, given their current options – which have been left stretched following the injury to Scott McTominay.
But that is the problem. The signing of Ronaldo, who is yet to arrive at the club, should give Solskjaer’s side a huge boost of leadership and mentality. What it cannot do, however, is cover up persisting problems, such as the gaps in midfield that were exposed by Wolves here.
Mason Greenwood once again rescues misfiring United attack
The problem of United’s ineffective midfield was then heightened by the fact that it left their forwards starved of service for much of the first half and into the second. In the end, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side were bailed out by a third goal in as many games by the brilliant Mason Greenwood, with the 19-year-old rescuing United for the second week in a row.
Even then, it took a goalkeeping error from José Sá, who failed to stop Greenwood’s shot from the angle. But if anyone was to score for United, it would have been Greenwood, who scored from the right after being moved from the number nine position following the introduction of Edinson Cavani.
It certainly rescued a questionable United performance. Jadon Sancho struggled on the ball on his first Premier League start while Bruno Fernandes was not his usual self. United also missed Pogba’s presence on the left and his combinations with the Portuguese and Greenwood in that channel. The alternative of playing Nemanja Matic alongside Fred and allowing Pogba to resume on the left would have only left United more exposed to Wolves’ runners, as noted above.
Pogba, if anything, remained one of United’s most dangerous players with his first-time passes over the top of the Wolves defence, but they were not as threatening as usual as he was often playing them from deeper areas. Edinson Cavani was brought on for his first appearance of the season but United rarely sustained an attack that could create a chance inside the penalty area for the striker to take.
The question now, however, is how the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo will affect Greenwood’s first-team chances following the international break.
Wolves impress but are punished for missing their chances
If Wolves needed a statement response under Bruno Lage, after losing their opening two Premier League games of the season, they certainly got one in front of their home supporters against Manchester United – even if the result evaded them.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s reign seemed to come to a natural end following a difficult campaign for the club last season, but, based on this showing, Lage seems to have injected new life into the side. This was an aggressive, bold and exciting performance from the Lage’s team – similar to some of the displays we saw from Wolves under Nuno, especially at the Molineux, as they secured back-to-back seventh placed finishes in the Premier League.
Wolves were sharp defensively and keen to pick up any loose balls in order to break forward, not just through the outstanding Traore but also the impressive Trincao. Their urgency and intensity blew United away at times and the game could have been put to bed by half time.
But for all of their good play, a goal threat eluded them. Raul Jimenez has only recently returned to play following a fractured skull and it is understandable that the striker will want to ease back into competitive football after such a horrific injury. The Mexico striker looked a little tentative when the opportunity to shoot opened up, while Trincao also lacked a clinical edge.
Wolves have now gone three games in the Premier League without scoring but if Jimenez’s deadly instincts return over the next few weeks and Wolves can finish their chances, they could be a very dangerous team once again.
Traore stars as winger runs United ragged
After being linked with Tottenham Hotspur in recent weeks, Adama Traore showed why his former boss Nuno Espirito Santo is desperate to secure his services thanks to a stunning performance against Manchester United.
The Spain forward had a tough season at times last campaign but looked back to his best as he ran United ragged in the opening spell of the game, first bursting away from Fred and Pogba and then evading Wan-Bissaka’s challenge to set up another chance for Jimenez.
It set the tone for what was to follow and the winger continued to pose United problems every time he got on the ball. His end product, which is often the source of frustration for supporters of the 25-year-old, was good and he would have had an assist or two if there had been better finishing elsewhere from Jimenez and Trincao.
United’s defence stands out
Despite the shortcomings of the rest of United’s play, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a back five to rely on. In the end, it proved vital in securing three points.
Raphael Varane showed his class on his Manchester United debut in the moments where his defensive skills were called into action and the France international will only grow stronger as he develops a partnership with Harry Maguire.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s clearance off the line in the first half was one of the best pieces of defending you are likely to see in any league this season, which wasn’t a surprise given the right-back’s outstanding defensive instincts, while Luke Shaw was solid again.
And in goal, David De Gea produced a double save that will rank as high as any he has made in a United shirt. It remains to be seen whether he will keep United’s number one jersey over Dean Henderson this season but today’s performance suggests he could be back to his best.