Wolves vs Manchester United: Five things we learned as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer suffers defeat

Five things we learned: Solskjaer's side fell to yet another defeat at Molineux to damage their Champions League hopes

Mark Critchley
Northern Football Correspondent
Tuesday 02 April 2019 21:58
Diogo Jota celebrates scoring Wolves' first-half equaliser
Diogo Jota celebrates scoring Wolves' first-half equaliser

United suffer blow in top-four hunt

Victory over away to Wolverhampton Wanderers would have put Manchester United in pole position in the race for a top-four place. Even a point would have been enough to climb up to fourth. Instead, defeat leaves them still on the outside, looking in.

This was not as poor a performance as in the FA Cup quarter-finals on the same ground before the international break. United took the lead this time and should potentially have been as many as three goals up after a dominant start.

And yet, Diogo Jota cancelled out Scott McTominay’s opener, there was only one side deserving of victory. Ashley Young should not escape censure for his second-half sending off but United never looked likely to recover once pegged back.

Chris Smalling, one of United’s better players, was unlucky to be the one credited with a decisive own goal but, just like two-and-a-half weeks ago, this was a deserved defeat in the Black Country.

Jimenez one of season’s best new arrivals

As awards season approaches and we prepare to run the rule over the signings of the 2018-19 campaign, we should not dismiss Wolves’ capture of a Mexican striker who is clinical in front of goal but works to create openings for his team-mates too.

Raul Jimenez has 15 goals since his arrival on loan at Molineux and more will be expected once his permanent signing from Benfica is completed, but it is his selflessness in possession that is perhaps his most impressive trait.

The delicate pass which set up Diogo Jota’s equaliser was not only placed brilliantly - flicked over the arching leg of Victor Lindelof - but timed to perfection too, delivered just as Jota’s curved run broke in behind United.

Fred error undermines strong start

Fred started impressively in the holding midfield role, showing courage to get on the ball and play, but one woeful touch can spoil an evening. It was his miscontrol which allowed Jimenez to turn the ball over deep and set-up Jota to equalise.

It was the story of Fred’s United career so far: momentarily impressive but let down by rash errors. He is clearly a raw talent and one who could yet come good, but United did not expect mere potential for £52million.

Before tonight, Nemanja Matic had started every game of significance under Solskjaer when fit. He will be 31 in August and is showing signs he cannot be relied upon week-in week-out already, but Fred has to find consistency in order to be his long-term replacement.

McTominay goal caps recent improvement

A pet project of Jose Mourinho, some sneered that Scott McTominay was promoted from the academy for his 6ft4in frame and little else. There was thus some doubt over his future when Solskjaer arrived.

A new contract signed in January with the Norwegian’s approval cast doubt on that theory and in the months since, McTominay has shown why he remains highly-rated at Carrington, even after the change in manager.

First, there was an excellent display in holding midfield against Liverpool, then heroics alongside Fred in Paris. His first goal, scored after 13 minutes at Molineux, was well deserved and United's only highlight.

Wolves may have say in title fall-out

Wolves’ record against the established ‘top six’ going into this game was well-documented. It was 10 points, more than any other side outside the elite. Now, make that 13, the difference between being the ‘best of the rest’ and battling against relegation.

What makes Nuno Espirito Santo’s side so effective against the big boys is their work without the ball. Through strong positional discipline and knowing when and when not to press, they hold their opponents off without losing their own threat.

There is just one ‘top six’ side Wolves are yet to take points from in the Premier League: Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, who they meet at Anfield on the final day. Could they yet have a telling say in the destination of the title.

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