Since Wolverhampton Wanderers came back into the Premier League in 2018/19, there have been 13 meetings prior to today and outside of the last fixture, the games had at most 1 goal between the teams whenever there was winner, which wasn’t a common variable. It happened once again tonight with Raphael Varane heading in from close range in the 75th minute. It didn’t tell the story of a game in which the team in gold really should have gotten at least a point from the game. In fact, a draw for them would have still flattered the Red Devils. The room for improvement remains quite chasmic and it will need a lot more if they are to replicate the standings of this season.
Building To Drabness
The way in which Wolves play is just antithetical to whatever Man Utd try to do. They have such a good shape off the ball, where the space that they give up is so tight that it is hard to play in. It is one of the things that Red Devils have struggled with throughout the years and it is not just Wolves who come to Old Trafford to do it but they are one of the best at frustrating the home team with their chance creation. With our strong league finish, teams are going to strengthen their rearguard even more so it would have been a thought provoking night as to what is due to come for the rest of the season.
However, the thing that was ultra concerning was the fact that Wolves were just so much better at playing through the lines, with and without pressure, whether it be through carrying or passing the ball. Joao Gomes, Mario Lemina and Matheus Nunes, even though they had several occasions where they played with fire, took the ball under pressure to go past men or split the lines. Compared it to Casemiro, Mount and Bruno, it was night and day. I spoke about the potential of this midfield in the season preview and what it could possibly bring at its best, with the pressure it could maintain without the ball. However, the limitations with the ball were as clear as day from what we saw tonight.
Bruno and Mount were high in the dual 8/10 roles and Casemiro was left either on his own or his mate became one of Luke Shaw or Lisandro Martinez. The problem was that Man Utd were just not able to build through the thirds so they became an irrelevance in the game and had to come searching for the ball, which just made the initial shape irrelevant. Casemiro, who isn’t the best on the turn or under pressure, was constantly being pressured because he had little connectivity around him to play bounce passes to evade such pressure because the team’s shape was so scattered with the lack of ball at the feet that the attacking players had. In effect, it is probably a lesson well learned and one that is not dragged throughout the season but early signs show that what United have had trouble with in the past on the ball looks set to continue.
Growth is a winding road
It really is such a bonus point for a young player that there are question marks about the fact you are not starting over your more experienced colleagues. That was the situation with Alejandro Garnacho at the end of the season and his cameo in the FA Cup final loss perhaps added to that. Again, the performance against Lens in the penultimate pre season game added to those cries.
But this is a boy who just turned 19 years old last month. On the occasions that he did start last season, there was seldom an occasion where he performed as he did coming off the bench. Playing against tiring legs is the obvious fact but also the change of having to deal with someone like a Rashford or Sancho to the spritely young Argentine for the marker caused a change in tack they often couldn’t react well too.
This continued in the vein of form with Garnacho not having the best of times when he would start a game. Nelson Semedo is not the best player go back the way yet he found it unbelieveably comfortable in dealing with the threat of Garnacho. So much so that after 20 or so minutes, you saw something that the ex Atletico Madrid youth player hardly ever done last season. He was constantly turning back. Even on the time where he had yards of space to run into, he turned back into trouble for no reason and ended up losing the ball. The weight of pass was off, a particular moment where he sent Bruno way too close to the byline, when it should have been a comfortable pass, was one of the last things he done before he was sat down on the bench for Jadon Sancho. In more ways than one, people would probably prefer it if it was the other way. Hopefully, his expectations can be tempered for the age he is currently at.