Manchester United split the points on Monday against Wolverhampton Wanderers in the final contest of Matchweek 2. Both sides walked away from Molineux Stadium with one goal to their name, and there was plenty more to reflect on for the visitors. Anthony Martial nearly fired one home inches away in the 18th minute, only to have it veer wide. The Frenchman made up for it nine minutes later, finding the back of the next thanks to some teamwork by Marcus Rashford.
United were caught off guard with the equalizer in the second half when a lone Rúben Neves fired out of David de Gea’s reach in the 55th minute. When referee Jonathan Moss gave United a decisive penalty in the 68th, it was Paul Pogba instead of Rashford who lined up to give his side the lead. This time, however, keeper Rui Patricio stopped the Frenchman’s shot from crossing the goal line.
For a team who lost to Wolves twice last year, this draw seems like a step up for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side. Here are three things we learned from Manchester United’s 1-1 draw against Wolverhampton Wanderers.
United grow more patient when they dominate possession
Desperate to score early and often, concerns naturally begin when United fail to capitalize on such quick chances. Instead of growing impatient when Martial missed early on, the Red Devils regrouped and the second time around were far more successful.
A case could be made that United don’t always need majority possession to make a statement, but it’s helpful they do in order to focus their form on passing and positioning. In Chelsea’s case, United only had the ball 46% of the time compared to the Blues’ 54%. Scoring goals is the clear endgame, but keeping your opponent exhausted and forced to switch their strategy — just like United did last week — is just as important.
Marcus Rashford is on penalty duty until further notice
Rashford scored against Paris Saint-Germain during Champions League play last season. He opened the scoring against Chelsea last week with a dazzling penalty. Without a doubt, Rashford should be unanimous penalty taker. Attribute it to his run-up technique or the acceleration behind his kick, but for some reason Pogba deemed it necessary for him to be this week’s hero. This consequently resulted in two dropped points and a chance to create real noise in the Premier League.
Solskjaer had this to say in his post-match presser regarding the decision: “The two of them are designated penalty shooters. It’s up to them in that moment.”
As manager, this is an irresponsible comment from OGS. Pogba has rightfully staked his claim to represent the Red Devils from the spot. But in crucial contests, those responsibilities should now be given to Rashford. It was an embarrassing blunder that ultimately decided the match, and from now on should serve as a reminder next time United are in this position.
Lackluster draw aside, United have made a promising start to the new season
When the schedule was first released, many expected United drop points against both Chelsea and Wolves. Two fixtures in and United still have control of their destiny. With 36 weeks still remaining, it’s not worth the scorn that awaits me if I make a freezing cold take so early in the year. In just two games, however, United had shown a desire to play to the final whistle with as much perseverance as in the opening minutes. The attacking has simplified and the dramatics have subsided. Outside of the penalty conflict, this is a team that has looked more streamlined in the last two weeks than in the final month of last year’s campaign.
United deserved more out of their primetime matchup than one point, and perhaps this result doesn’t convince skeptics that a new and improved Manchester United has arrived. Nonetheless, they should be satisfied with their performance and enthusiastic for a turnaround against Crystal Palace.