Wolves 1-1 Manchester United: Paul Pogba spurns chance to win clash from penalty spot moments after Ruben Neves levels with long-range stunner
At least a draw at Wolves represents progress for Manchester United under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, even if they were left to rue Paul Pogba’s second-half penalty miss, his fourth since the start of last season.
And that is just about where they’re at right now. Twice United were beaten here earlier this year – in league and FA Cup – as an end-of-season slide set in that raised doubts about both the new manager and the mindset of his players.
Gary Neville said before this game that Solskjaer would not be ‘conned’ by one good performance – last weekend’s 4-0 win over Chelsea – and there is a lingering suspicion that this team can flatter to deceive.
Paul Pogba spurned the chance to win the Premier League encounter as Rui Patricio saves his penalty in the 68th minute
Pogba, who is looking for a route out of Old Trafford, reacts after seeing his penalty saved by the Wolves goalkeeper
The 26-year-old reacts to his penalty miss after taking the ball off Marcus Rashford, who scored from the spot against Chelsea
Pogba won the penalty for United after being pegged back as Conor Coady tips him up in the Wolves penalty area
Ruben Neves equalised for Wolves with a stunning strike in the 55th minute, leaving David de Gea with no chance
The 22-year-old Portuguese midfielder celebrates his fantastic goal in front of the jubilant home support
Luke Shaw tries to close down Neves, who gets his feet set to strike at United’s goal 10 minutes into the second half
Neves takes aim from the edge of the box as United players desperately attempt to close him down in the second half
Spain international De Gea tries to get his left hand onto the ball but can’t quite get to it as it hits the crossbar before going in
PLAYER RATINGS, MATCH FACTS AND LEAGUE TABLE
Wolves (3-5-2): Patricio 8; Bennett 5; Coady 5; Boly 5.5; Doherty 5 (Traore 45, 8.5); Dendoncker 6; Neves 7.5; Moutinho 7; Otto 7; Jimenez 7.5 (Cutrone 90); Jota 7 (Neto 85)
Subs not used: Gibbs-White; Ruddy; Saiss; Vinagre
Scorers: Neves 55
Booked: Neves, Bennett
Manager: Nuno Espirito Santo 7
Manchester United (4-2-3-1): De Gea 6; Wan-Bissaka 7; Lindelof 6; Maguire 6.5; Shaw 6.5; Pogba 7; McTominay 7; James 6 (Pereira 88); Lingard 7 (Mata 80); Rashford 8 (Greenwood 88); Martial 7.5
Subs not used: Young; Romero; Matic; Tuanzebe
Scorers: Martial 27
Booked: James, Wan-Bissaka
Manager: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer 6.5
Season at a glance
- Premier League
- Premier League
- League One
- League Two
- Scottish Premiership
- Scottish Div 1
- Scottish Div 2
- Scottish Div 3
- Ligue 1
- Serie A
- La Liga
This, then, was a far truer test of what United may, or may not, achieve this season – and the jury remains out. The victory against Chelsea had, in fairness, descended into a stroll. As Solskjaer said himself, it is very easy to play well when you’re 3-0 up at Old Trafford.
At Molineux, though, it is not so simple, nor is it anywhere away from home these days. Indeed, they have not won on the road since the first of those losses at Wolves in mid March.
Come May just one position and nine points separated the teams in the final Premier League standings and it is a gap Wolves are intent on closing – not that they looked capable of doing that during a lethargic first half in which the visitors dominated.
Ten minutes before Anthony Martial’s breakthrough goal he had done little to convince of his credentials as a central striker, the position he prefers.
It was nothing to do with technique, more a question of desire. Marcus Rashford had left Ryan Bennett so dizzy as he chopped one way and the other on the left that the defender simply fell over.
The forward took advantage to deliver the most inviting of deliveries but it was an offer Martial refused to take, dangling a leg inside the six-yard area instead of barging ball and man over the line.
Anthony Martial put United ahead in the 27th minute on Monday after emphatically striking past Patricio in the Wolves goal
Marcus Rashford, who provided the assist, jumps on the goalscorer following his emphatic opener in the first half
Martial wheels off to celebrate after giving the Red Devils lift-off against Nuno Espirito Santo’s outfit on Monday
The 23-year-old pictured smashing his fierce left-footed effort into the roof of the Wolves net past goalkeeper Patricio
Martial may wear No 9 but old-fashioned centre-forward he is not. Remember, too, that Solskjaer has urged his strikers to score more ‘scruffy’ goals this season.
But that is not Martial. Rather, he feeds off the sort of slide that Rashford provided for his 27th-minute opener.
Luke Shaw responded to the customary jibes about his weight to burst forward and start a move which saw Jesse Lingard feed Rashford. He in turn slipped a pass in behind a static Wolves backline and Martial did the rest with a first-time sweep into the roof of the net.
He could have had a second on the stroke of half-time had he not stood on the ball when looking set to skip clear from Conor Coady’s errant backpass.
Wolves offered little in that opening period. The closest they came to scoring was when United defender Victor Lindelof got himself in such a mess that a sliced clearance was followed by a headed return to David de Gea that, for a split-second, looked as if it could loop over the goalkeeper.
Martial misses a great chance to put the visitors ahead, failing to get end on the end of Rashford’s teasing cross
The Frenchman reacts after failing to provide the finishing touch while Wolves defender Willy Boly lies on the ground
United new boy Daniel James, handed his first start for the club, is shown a yellow card for diving by referee Jon Moss
Blushes spared on that occasion, he and Harry Maguire had otherwise cruised through the first 45 minutes.
It had, though, been a rough half for Dan James, making his first United start. The release of Leeds United’s Amazon Prime documentary last week revealed just how close he came to signing for the club in January and, had it not been for Swansea’s hierarchy pulling the plug at the 11th hour, James could well have been in action for them at Wigan on Saturday.
And he could have been wishing he was as the home defenders targeted his heels during the opening exchanges. James responded with what looked a pair of dives and he was fortunate that the first went unpunished by referee Jon Moss, who was not to be fooled a second time and duly booked the £15m wideman.
James was operating in front of fellow summer recruit Aaron Wan-Bissaka and it was the defender who provided the cross from which Lingard should have doubled the lead early in the second half. His finish, however, was wild and United paid the price as Wolves drew level on 55 minutes. It was a fine goal, too.
United midfielder Pogba falls theatrically to the floor following pressure from Leander Dendoncker in the first half
England star Rashford is tackled by Wolves centre-back Ryan Bennett during the opening stages on Monday night
A corner was worked short and returned to taker Joao Moutinho, who picked out Portuguese compatriot Ruben Neves 25 yards from goal. The midfielder took one touch to steady himself and another to dispatch into the top corner via the underside of the crossbar.
But United had the chance to win it when Pogba was felled inside the penalty area by Coady and stepped up to take the resulting spot-kick, assuming responsibility from Rashford, who had converted from 12 yards last Sunday.
There was no theatrical Pogba run-up this time but there was drama, Rui Patricio diving low to his right to repel the midfielder’s powerful blast.
Still, it’s a draw, and that, for Solskjaer, is a sign of improvement.
It was a tight affair before the Red Devils broke the deadlock midway through the opening period against Wolves
Wolves put on a loud and colourful display just moments before kick-off in the Premier League at the Molinueux