Below, we take a look at some of the key talking points surrounding Manchester United’s stalemate with Wolves this evening.
Wolves stall United
The Red Devils travelled to Molineux a short time ago, for their 2nd Premier League outing of the season.
United got their campaign off to a blistering start last weekend, with a 4-0 drubbing of Chelsea at Old Trafford.
And, on the back of city rivals Manchester City’s dropped points at home to Tottenham over the weekend, Solskjaer’s men headed into proceedings this evening aware that a 3-point haul would see them leapfrog current joint-table toppers Liverpool and Arsenal.
But, when all was said and done at Molineux, this did not prove the case.
A dominant opening to the clash on the part of the visitors saw United deservedly take the lead just before the half-hour mark, when an intricate piece of football between Marcus Rashford, Luke Shaw and Anthony Martial eventually saw the latter rifle home into the roof of Rui Patricio’s net.
The Red Devils went on to control the remainder of the opening 45 minutes, with a poor piece of control on the part of goalscorer Martial on the stroke of the interval all that saved Wolves from falling 2 behind.
The early exchanges of the second-half, however, saw a sharp shift in the direction of the clash.
The hosts finally found their vigour, with the introduction of Adama Traore down the right having injected some much-needed directness into Nuno Espirito Santo’s attack.
And it didn’t take long for Wolves’ improvement to pay dividends, as Ruben Neves levelled things up.
A neatly-worked corner from the right saw the ball pulled back to the Portuguese midfielder on the edge of the box, before Neves unleashed a trademark pinpoint strike beyond the despairing reach of David De Gea.
Ruben Neves PL career
Touches in opposition penalty area: 3
— Duncan Alexander (@oilysailor) August 19, 2019
The remaining half hour-plus saw few clear-cut chances carved out, save for one golden opportunity for visitors United.
A burst into the Wolves box with 68 minutes on the clock saw Paul Pogba draw a foul, with the Frenchman having dusted himself down before stepping up to take the spot-kick himself.
Pogba’s effort, however, was brilliantly stopped by the diving Rui Patricio, a stop which, when all was said and done, secured a share of the spoils for the hosts.
Rashford to replace Pogba
The aftermath of what will be viewed as an evening of what ifs for Manchester United will therefore no doubt see Pogba’s missed penalty grab the majority of the headlines.
This comes after Marcus Rashford took the responsibility of taking the Red Devils’ first spot-kick of the season, last weekend versus Chelsea.
The English attacker stepped up with supreme confidence versus Frank Lampard’s men, before dispatching his ensuing effort beyond the helpless Kepa in superb fashion.
Rashford’s strike was, in truth, just about as perfect as a spot-kick gets.
As such, when Pogba stepped forward at Molineux this evening, it came as something of a surprise.
A short discussion between the Frenchman and Rashford saw the former overrule his younger teammate, with Rashford having looked relatively content to allow Pogba to pull rank.
This, however, cannot be the case moving forward.
A clear pecking order must exist in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s squad, before further points are squandered down the line.
Rashford proved last season versus PSG that he possesses the mettle to convert from the spot when it matters most, before doing so once more versus Chelsea.
The 21-year-old should, from here on out, be considered as United’s undoubted first-choice penalty-taker.
4 – Paul Pogba has missed four penalties in the Premier League since the start of last season; the most of any player in the competition. Fluffed. pic.twitter.com/NI1odCCBg5
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) August 19, 2019
Daniel James is far from the finished prodict
Another notable aspect of Manchester United’s performance this evening was Daniel James being brought firmly back down to earth.
On the back of his dream debut at Old Trafford last weekend, the summer addition to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s squad found it tough throughout the 90 minutes at Molineux.
The Welshman was called up for simulation in the first-half, before being booked a short time later for a similar offence.
The blistering pace possessed by the 21-year-old make him a real weapon, but James’ display tonight evidenced the fact that he is some way off being the finished product.
He was brushed off the ball too easily on numerous occasions, with the wide-man’s delivery having also left a lot to be desired. Time and time again, James’ whipped crosses from the right were blocked at the source by Wolves’ defenders, bringing to an end promising attacks for the visitors.
One positive which should be noted regarding the former Swansea man, though, is his attitude.
Despite the rough treatment aimed in his direction by Wolves’ back-4, James kept his head high, persisting with his bursts down the right-flank, and tracking back to win possession on several occasions.
The Welshman is undoubtedly a talent, but expectations may need to be reeled in as the season progresses.
Maintaining the press
The final key talking point to take away from United’s stalemate this evening was the notable fading of the Red Devils’ press as the matchup wore on.
United, like Chelsea versus Leicester City yesterday evening, came out of the blocks in intense fashion at Molineux.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men immediately pushed their hosts onto the back foot, harrying Wolves’ stars with relentless pressure all over the park.
This worked a charm for the majority of the opening 45 minutes, as Nuno Espiritio Santo’s men struggled to string together any sort of meaningful forays forward.
As proceedings wore on, however, this pressure faded.
While United did manage to maintain their high press for considerably longer than the aforementioned example of Chelsea yesterday, the second-half in particular saw Wolves often afforded far too much time on the ball.
It is, of course, next to impossible to keep up a constant level of all-out, unyielding effort to ensure that your opponents do not find a moment’s peace when in possession, but a middle ground must be found.
This will allow United to perform closer to their brilliance of the opening 45 minutes tonight, as opposed to their often-disjointed second-half display, on a far more consistent basis moving forward.