Manchester United turned in yet another terrible performance as they were beaten 1-0 by Wolverhampton Wanderers in Monday’s Premier League encounter at Old Trafford. Ralf Rangnick’s side offered nothing in attack for most of the game, and could have few complaints when João Moutinho scuffed a winner past David de Gea with 10 minutes left.
United’s first half performance was almost unbelievably turgid, and Wolves were better in just about every aspect of the game. The saving grace was that the Reds’ central defensive pairing — comprising Raphaël Varane and Phil Jones, making his first appearance in over two years — managed to withstand a barrage of crosses into the box.
Wolves found particular joy in the wide areas, with a narrow United failing to track the movement of opposition wing-backs Nélson Semedo and Fernando Marçal. In the middle of the field, Scott McTominay and Nemanja Matić reverted to their usual struggles against a highly technical pairing of João Moutinho and Rúben Neves.
By halftime United had mustered a measly four shots, only once hitting the target — less than a quarter of Wolves’ first half total. But for all of their attacking flair, Wolves failed to find the final pass. Their best effort came less than a quarter-hour into the first half, when a corner was flicked out to Ruben Neves on the edge of the box. He brought the ball down and volleyed goalwards, though David de Gea was on hand to make a brilliant save.
Meanwhile, United offered almost nothing in attack against their notoriously parsimonious opponents. Bruno Lage’s side sank into a back five whenever United crossed the halfway line, with Moutinho and Neves providing an additional defensive screen. Of all of the United players, Aaron Wan-Bissaka appeared to have the most time on the ball — though this was probably more by Wolves’ design than by accident. The United right-back had a couple of chances to swing crosses into the box, but couldn’t deliver a great final ball.
United saw more possession after the interval, but still struggled to create. That was until midway through the second half, when a low Matić cross picked out an unmarked and onrushing Bruno Fernandes in the middle of the Wolves box: the Portuguese substitute could only smash his shot against the crossbar. A minute later his compatriot Cristiano Ronaldo headed a free-kick into the back of the net, but the goal was rightly ruled out for offside.
Wolves remained a threat, and with 15 minutes left, centre-half Romain Saïss rattled the crossbar with a dipping free-kick from the edge of the United box. Raúl Jiménez almost got on the end of a lethal Marçal cross minutes later, but Luke Shaw did just enough to put him off.
With less than 10 minutes left, Wolves did the all-too-thinkable. An Adama Traoré cross from the right was flicked away by Phil Jones, only as far as Moutinho on the edge of the box. The midfielder scuffed his shot, but it was accurate enough to roll past de Gea and inside the far post. It was a late winner for Wolves, and, on balance, no less than they’d deserved. Rangnick has some serious thinking to do.