Wolves v. Manchester United Match Report: That was a drab, drab draw.


Manchester United’s draw at the Molineux has added pressure to their fixture list and hasn’t given us any answers about how this team is supposed to play.

This was promised as one of the bigger match ups in the FA Cup third round, almost up there with the meeting of the Scousers. It was, after all, a repeat of last year’s quarter-finals. Last year, of course, Wolves were the giant slayers, and Manchester United were the slain giants. The second part of that statement is yet to change, while Wolves have gone from that to established top six pretenders. So this match was, overall, pretty well poised. With Wolves’ slick possession play, most people thought that the incarnation of Manchester United we would see was the one that played on the counter.

Instead, however, we got to watch Man United’s imbecilic midfield play. Okay, to be fair to them, they looked fairly fluid for their age, with Nemanja Matic especially playing his football at a faster pace than he usually does. Pereira, of course, looked busy without being particularly busy, snapping into tackles and making many passes, without making use of the biggest chances. Mata was at the center of most things that United did well, especially early in the match, when he tends to shine. His free kick, too, was a pretty good one, just about missing the far post.

However, although the midfield’s movement was better, it was their passing which really let them down. Manchester United had zero (ZERO!) through balls in the entire match. I think one moment in the 82nd minute really summed it up. Brandon Williams had made a great interception, passed it into Rashford, and had made a wonderful and spirited run towards the box. Rashford passed it into Andreas Pereira and made another run, but he was tightly marked. Poor Brandon Williams was in space in the box, in Pereira’s field of vision, and was painstakingly trying to keep himself onside. But Pereira took a touch too many, and instead found the boot of a Wolves defender while trying to pass to Rashford, having not even spotted the pass. Manchester United really need to go shopping.

However, I felt that the promising attack really let us down. Although in the English media, Mason Greenwood can do no wrong, I felt that he really lacked predatory instincts that day (I know he’s only eighteen, but he will have to learn). He was way too deep, all the time – if this was by design, it was a rather poor design, according to me. This fact is clearly shown by United’s shot map; there’s no shots taken from inside the six yard box. This is despite a few good, driven balls into the box from both the left and the right. However, it was just that Greenwood wasn’t there to take those chances. Now, fair enough, he was involved in the build up, and his teammates, especially the number 10, Juan Mata, should also be making those late runs, because he was almost positioned as a support striker anyway. Even so, Greenwood really must show the desire to get into the box, and more importantly get in front of his man for the tap in.

I thought James was poor, too, from an attacking perspective. Sure, he was always in position, helping out his full back, but he’s barely had any touches of the ball (same number as Romero!), and he’s not been very effective. He was released a couple of times, but didn’t make much happen. I really think that kid needs a good rest, he’s been off the boil lately and really needs to get some of the pressure off his shoulders. Unfortunately, such is the nature of this United squad, he’s not really gonna get that. I felt Chong was promising, but as the commentators in BT mentioned, he cut inside way too much. The one time he did take the outside route, he got a wonderful ball into the six-yard box.

The defence did look quite solid today, and both the full-backs (Williams especially – he’s really impressing so much every time he steps on the pitch) were able to get up and down the pitch and handle most things thrown at them. The team that was crying out for clean sheets a couple of weeks ago now rather unremarkably got one. And unremarkable is what every defender wants to be.

A big shout to Maguire as well, playing through the pain. Although it’s probably not healthy from a sports science perspective, it’s nice to see some old-fashioned leading by example once in a while. Both the centre backs handled the threat of Wolves well, especially towards the end, where United practically had the Wolves first-choice eleven running at them. Handling the physically gifted Adama Traore for 90 minutes is no mean feat, and Brandon Williams and Harry Maguire deserve huge credit for that (just ask the Man City ‘backline’).

All this praise is apart from that one moment where Docherty was in acres of space and unmarked for the header (which, in all honesty, he HAD to put in – I don’t know how he got it onto his hand). I think that was the one moment of brain freeze that the United backline was meant to have in this (and every) game. It’s lucky that Docherty was so shocked by his own luck that his header ended up hitting his hand. Otherwise this game looked poised to be a one-nil. Docherty had the other big chance of the game as well, with Romero’s absolutely wonderful reaction save denying him.

Overall, Manchester United didn’t tell us anything new against Wolves. They told us that they lack an ounce of creativity. They told us that they can’t really take the initiative when given possession. And, unfortunately, in trying not to lose a game and rest some players, they ended up adding a game to their rather busy schedule.

All stats from WhoScored unless mentioned otherwise.

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Who was your man of the match against Wolves?