It was always going to be a difficult game going away from home to a resolute Wolves side, who have shown that they are capable of mixing it with the best in the league. A nicely worked goal in the first half saw Rashford set up Martial but this was cancelled out by a stunning strike from Ruben Neves in the second. If only Paul Pogba was able to stick away the penalty he earned, it could have easily been a trip back to Old Trafford yielding all three points, rather than just the one.
Pogba’s mixed bag
The responsibility of Pogba this season seems firmly within the first and second phase, at most, of build up rather than the final third when Solskjaer initially came in. It was something he alluded to after the Southampton win earlier in the year where the team’s inefficacy of passing through the lines meant the Frenchman would have to play deeper. At Molineux, Pogba had a mixed performance in that he handled himself as a midfielder in a double pivot in a difficult away game would: being disciplined, keeping the passes simple and acting as a spring board for further attacks, the latter shown in the goal tonight. Personally, a bit more could be expected in his dictating of the pace of our play and progressing play into better areas but the basics of a centre midfield performance was there. Unfortunately, he isn’t helped by the lack of technicians around him in this area. Great work in the lead up to the penalty with Anthony Martial showed everyone what he’s capable of when he is in the final third but his out of character lashing of the ball from the spot made it a comfortable save for Rui Patricio and served to only confirm Pogba as the talking point of the match for the second week in a row, negatively this time around.
Things clicking for Martial?
Lost in the melee of his compatriot’s performance on the night, Martial staked further claim to the spot up front under Ole with an impressive outing as the number 9 wearing his favoured 9 shirt on the back. The first few minutes were difficult as things weren’t quite falling in the places he wanted but after he scored, with an excellent first time finish with his weaker foot, his overall play as the lone striker was very good. Essentially playing against 3 centre backs, he fought well with them whenever the ball came up to him and there were even times he managed to make balls look better than they did. His off the ball work in harassing defenders was remarkable for his standards and has been since pre-season. Even as he tired towards the end of the game, he still ran to put pressure on the Wolves CBs in possession. All there is to do for Martial is to continue with this form and be in amongst the goals rather than having gluts of goals followed by derelict droughts.
It won’t always be ’99
Having been in the job for 8 months, one noticeable weakness in Solskjaer’s management has been the decisions he has been making in games, whether it be tactical changes or substitutions. It flies directly in the face of the away leg in Paris where he essentially micro-managed the game in sections in order to come away with that miracle result. In terms of the Wolves game, going into the second half, one could have expected them to come with much more intensity, something he alluded to in his post match presser. This coupled with the introduction of Adama Traore upped Wolves’ ante and some type of instruction or change should have come from the touchline. Perhaps switching Daniel James and Marcus Rashford, as the former is a more willing player in tracking back so as to not have Luke Shaw 1v1, as the English LB is intent on backing off from his opponent. Maybe even bringing on an extra defensive player and matching Wolverhampton in their formation, so Lindelof could come to cover with Shaw. However, the formation stayed and it relied on McTominay coming over to help, which not only left us light in midfield but he was even unable to stem the Traore flow. Changes to the attack were left far too late and the introduction of Mata and Pereira seemed more like substitutions for substitutions sake rather than to actually change anything.
Wan Bissaka and Maguire’s presence continues to add extra resolution to the United defence. Even with the left hand side being practically pillaged, in roads that actually threatened De Gea were few and far between.
United collectively aren’t doing enough to stretch teams when we have settled possession and seeing as this is going to happen most games, it is something we need to rectify.
James and Lingard are going to have to offer more than willingness to press and track back if they want to continue playing in the team. Their lack of offensive quality is hindered the team going forward and didn’t help much in offering support to the Martial.
It was better than last season when we went away to Wolves twice yet even with the difficulties that is faced there, they are unbeaten in 7 months there, tonight seems like an opportunity missed, particularly with Pogba’s chance from the spot.