If Ten Hag could have written the script after he had to drop Rashford for a disciplinary issue then having him come off the bench to score the winner would have been the perfect ending to that story. And that is exactly what happened. A good 1-2 with Bruno and a show of strength allowed him to belt one past the legs of Jose Sa, in what would be the only goal in the game. In the first half, United should have been ahead, whether by Garnacho shooting at Jose Sa after a mistake from Semedo, Martial letting the ball skim off his head rather than getting a good contact or Antony heading straight at the keeper when he should have been able to find a corner. Ruben Neves, via a great free kick, and Raul Jimenez, with a point blank header, were kept out by the virtue of good stops by De Gea, who ranks 2nd in the all time list for clean sheets at United. All in all, considering this is at the Molineux, where games are never pretty between these two sides, it was one where the result perhaps mattered more. One that has moved us into the top four for the new year. Roll on 2023.
A lot happened between the last game before the World Cup and the return of the Premier League, in the sense of Old Trafford. The Glazers situation has come to a head and the end is nigh but also a player was lost, who had been causing problems on and off the pitch. The loss of Cristiano Ronaldo, although perhaps not major in what he had been giving in previous months, is significant in that in lightened an already light area. It left us with one real striker and to some, he doesn’t even register as that.
Anthony Martial has somehow managed to end up as the first choice striker again after managing to play his way out the team so badly that he was relegated to 4th choice striker and sent out on loan. One where he didn’t pull up any trees and probably even planted more to shroud his future in more mystery. Yet the way things fell, with a good pre season, he has got himself into the Ten Hag’s good books. Alas, he has been curtailed with injuries so far this season and the performance today looked like one of a player without much match fitness in a game where the others were operating on another level of fitness. But it still isn’t an excuse because the ugly areas of his game reared its head too much today. He was harassed and harangued by Kilman and Collins when it should have been the other way around. His positioning in relation to the position of the ball was very poor. As a centre forward, the positioning has to be dynamic in order to offer short options, long options, whether it be depth or width, or in between the backline to make them shift across to cover the space he can potentially run into. In this game, he stationed himself too much in that left half space he clearly likes and didn’t give enough centrality that is so key to this system working.
What’s more, the usual parts of his game were really poor and even more upsetting. His link up play was shoddy and clunky. His hold up play, as aforementioned, was shocking. He won little to no aerial duels off my recollection and his combinations weren’t up to scratch. This plus the fact he wasn’t able to score means he will rightly get criticised for this game. Against Forest, it wasn’t much different but at least he was able to plaster some of it over with the goal. If he is lacking the sharpness then Martial at least needs to get goals to cover for the fact he isn’t at his pomp yet. He has just turned 27 and if all things go well, by next year, he should no longer be a starter at Man Utd. In the mean time, he has to play better to not be the problem on the pitch as his predecessor was.
Eriksen’s incapability to play in the centre of the park has already been picked up by me this season and it shone in that Man City game. Considering that is our next league game and what he done today, it makes me scared that repeat is on the cards. Technically, he is one dimensional in that he has a great raking pass and good vision to split a defence but often times, the real mark of a central midfielder is constantly progressing the ball into the dangerous areas for the attackers to create the chances. Casemiro is doing that more than the Dane. Physically, he has never been up to scratch. Mentally is the most grating however. A player that pulls out of that many challenges with his 60 minutes shouldn’t be allowed to play in the next game. Wolves are an intense team and it is Eriksen’s achilles heel where he just cannot keep up in those types of games. The fact that Fred had to come on in order to offer something off the ball is a show of how lacking Eriksen was today.
I might just have a special section for Casemiro each week where I wax lyrical about him because the consistency and quality he is showing has made such a difference to this team that it is the only small part I can play in appreciating what a wonderful signing he has been thus far. A truly world class player who is finally getting the accolades that he deserves, in terms of recognition. Hopefully his performances can spur us on to those accolades he so readily achieved at Real Madrid