It was an opening day win for Manchester United at Old Trafford, with an unlikely source providing the decisive moment in the 1-0 result against Wolverhampton Wanderers. An entertaining opening weekend of Premier League football ended with a tight and unconvincing performance from the Reds, but the result is what matters for now as they search for sharpness to start the campaign.
Manchester United lined up almost identical to the team that beat RC Lens 3-1 a week ago, the only change being Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s selection over Diogo Dalot. It was the competitive debut for both Andre Onana in goal and Mason Mount in the middle of the park alongside Casemiro, and Marcus Rashford started at center forward with Alejandro Garnacho in his preferred left wing role.
The first half was about as dull as many previous, and infamous, matchups with Wolves, but the visitors did more on their end to create and attack while the Reds struggled to string passes together. They made a couple of chances for themselves but failed to test Onana. A chance for the Reds on a quick break fell to Rashford but was saved by Jose Sa. It was the only real chance of the half, and otherwise very little separated the sides.
Wolves challenged United’s defense again soon after the halftime interval, with Matheus Cunha whiffing on a chance at the back post that surely would have beaten Onana if on target. It seemed to wake up United a bit, and they held the ball forward for a decent spell of possession afterward. It led to ricochet off of Kilman nearly turned into the opening goal, but moments later Wolves sprang an attack of their own, forcing a save from Onana.
The organization and composure of Wolves was in character but perhaps a bit unexpected given the summer they’ve had. It made the Reds plenty frustrated, but they only had themselves to blame for the poor control and passing in possession.
Changes came in the form of Jadon Sancho and Christian Eriksen to change things up for United with Garnacho and Mount withdrawn after muted performances, and whether it was the changes or Wolves tiring United seemed ready to score.
The goal came in the 75th minute off the head of Raphael Varane, played in by a nice volleyed cross from Wan-Bissaka to the right of the goal.
Facundo Pellistri replaced a tired Antony after the goal and the fresh legs served United well on the wings. Both he and Sancho looked read for action, with the latter nearly creating a goal for Rashford after a nice run down the left. The Wolves defense once again blocked the shot though, and proved crucial as they once again threatened. Andre Onana was forced to make two quick reaction saves about a minute apart, showing his shot-stopping abilities in the process.
United were continually tested for the rest of the match, which included seven long minutes of stoppage time. There was worry of a penalty shout as Onana was late to punching away a cross, but a VAR check concluded without the referee being called to the monitor. It was a bit of a surprising decision for the pundits and commentary crew, but one which Reds won’t worry about too much.
It wasn’t the prettiest win by any means, but the good news is there are three points in the bag from three available and United only have to play against Wolves one more time in the Premier League this season.