As Manchester City and Liverpool were wrapping up comfortable wins elsewhere, Manchester United were held at home by a bright, ambitious Wolverhampton Wanderers side. It would be hard to argue that United deserved to win; though they had most of the possession, they failed to create many decent chances. And had David de Gea not been alert in goal throughout, it could have been worse.
In keeping with the confident, positive start they’ve made in the Premier League, Wolves came to play, and looked the more dangerous of the two teams in the early exchanges. David de Gea had to make two smart saves, one with hands and another with feet, as the visitors looked for an early start to set United nerves twitching.
But United took the lead with their first shot on target. After Wolves repelled a cross from Alexis Sanchez, the ball fell to Paul Pogba on the edge of the box. The Frenchman could have taken a touch, or could have swung a leg, but instead he directed a delicate first-time no-look flick inside to Fred, who rolled the ball into the net from the edge of the penalty area.
With the goal came a measure of control over possession, though not many more chances. United’s best chance of a second game right at the end of additional time, when Fred hammered a free-kick towards goal. It was a brilliant effort, which provoked an equally brilliant save from Rui Patricio.
United’s failure to add to their lead was punished early in the second half. After Pogba had his pocket picked in midfield, Helder Costa advanced down the right, and squeezed a cross past Luke Shaw. The ball was behind Raul Jimenez, but he was able to poke the ball back to Joao Moutinho, who whipped the ball into the top corner.
United’s response was slow to get going, and it took the introduction of Juan Mata and Anthony Martial, for Fred and the disappointing Alexis Sanchez, to open the game up around the hour mark. Jesse Lingard had a stinging shot tipped over the bar, then Romelu Lukaku missed a free header from around eight yards out. The linesman’s flag spared his blushes.
Andreas Pereira entered the game after 70-odd minutes, which allowed Maroune Fellaini to move up front alongside Lukaku and sparked United into something resembling life. It took an excellent interception from Willy Boly to deny Lukaku a chance inside the penalty area, and Fellaini faded a header from a corner just over the bar.
That was about that for United chances, though there was still time for Fellaini to get himself a telling off and Adama Traore to draw another save from De Gea. It wasn’t a terrible performance, and Wolves will pick up plenty more points this season. But it leaves United eight points behind Liverpool, six behind City, and five behind Chelsea, who play tomorrow. Early days, but a gap is appearing between the top and the rest, and United are on the wrong side.