Football Features

“England will wait for Mason Greenwood” – Winners & Losers as Manchester United grind out a 1-0 win at Wolves

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 19:11, 29 August 2021 | Updated: 18:16, 10 September 2021

In a wild afternoon of football, Manchester United beat Wolves 0-1 at Molineux.

The Red Devils got pulverised for about an hour, needing to clear a shot off the line in the first-half before sneaking a goal late in the game to win the day. Who were the winners and losers?

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Winner: Mason Greenwood

Marcus Rashford is out injured, Daniel James is not good enough, Edinson Cavani & Anthony Martial are not fit enough and Cristiano Ronaldo hasn’t yet been officially signed. United need someone to step up and produce, and teenager Mason Greenwood has done just that.

Despite being 19 years-old, Greenwood has repeatedly stepped up to score crucial goals for United. He bagged the go-ahead strike against Leeds, the equaliser against Southampton and today he nailed the game-winner. He’s the first teenager since Robbie Fowler in 1994 to score in the first three games of the Premier League season.

Greenwood battled all afternoon against Wolves, first in a central area and then out wide where he began looking like United’s most dangerous player. His quickness of feet and the direct nature of his running, always driving at the Wolves goal, sent panic up and down the defence. Today he beat his man with a stepover and without any hesitation he lashed the ball hard and low at goal, getting it below José Sa before he even had time to get down properly.

It was a huge game-winner for a young man who looks set to have a huge season, and sure it seems a surprise that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer asked Gareth Southgate to not pick him for this upcoming internationals, but England will wait for Mason Greenwood, he’s just that good.

Loser: Fred

Manchester United have signed three world-class players this summer, but none of them play defensive midfield. And Manchester United need a defensive midfielder as we saw today where Fred was tasked with anchoring midfield and was found all at sea against the raging waves of the Wolves attacks. Those first 20 minutes were particularly painful as he just kept turning the ball away and looking more like a contest winner. And while some could argue a fit Scott McTominay solves the issues, he’s not all that much better than Fred.

The weaknesses exposed in Fred today won’t go away, and later on United will find themselves playing teams better than Wolves and more abke to punish the spaces and gaps left by someone as hysterically underqualified as Fred.

Winner: Raphael Varane

Raphael Varane made his Manchester United debut today in the kind of raucous away day atmosphere that saw Nemanja Vidic have a ‘mare on his United debut, but Varane was absolutely colossal against Wolves. It was a consummate display from a world-class defender, where the majority of his great defending came from what he did off the ball, away from the duels that can so often define what people see as a “good” defender.

Just 1 tackle and 1 block and only 3 clearances doesn’t look impressive, admittedly, but to watch Varane was to watch a master at work. Despite being made to defend wide-open tracts of land on the break against someone like Adama Traoré, Varane repeatedly closed off spaces and prevented Wolves from really hurting United and he did that without ever touching the ball.

That’s world-class defending and it’s not an exaggeration to say that with Victor Lindelof in the starting XI, Man Utd lose this game as they get gouged on the break by Wolves. They certainly wouldn’t have scored, as the assist for Greenwood’s goal came from Varane. There’s almost no telling how much of a difference Raphael Varane is going to make to Manchester United, but on the basis of today it could almost be title-defining.

Loser: Dean Henderson

Dean Henderson’s unfortunate bout of Covid disrupted his pre-season and handed David de Gea a chance to start. Now in the first two games De Gea did nothing to suggest he could keep hold of the shirt once Henderson returned. Today, however, was different.

With United under incessant pressure, De Gea remained a calm and confident presence. He left his line superbly to sweep, and he even produced some signature De Gea magic with a ridicudlous double save to deny Romain Saiss and keep the score at 0-0.

A win and a clean sheet courtesy of a great save (and some wonderful Raphael Varane defending) is going to make him much harder to dislodge whenever Henderson does return to fitness.

Winner: Adama Traoré

How do you explain Adama Traoré? A man built like an Olympic weightlifter with the dancing feet of a ballerina; a sprinter of unimaginable speed but with the ball attached to his feet as though it was on the end of the string; a glorious domineering tyrant of a footballer that no one can mark but who has less than 20 combined goals and assists since 2018/19.

Today he ripped United to shreds on the break, completed 8/9 take-ons. That’s twice as many as the entire United team managed. Yet he did nothing to actually hurt United on the scoresheet, and as a result United were able to walk away with a massive win. But on this occasion, for once, it wasn’t his fault. Adama’s 4 chances created was the most on the pitch and if he had someone who was on his level, maybe Wolves could have conjured something to get their first goal and win of the season.

Loser: Arsenal

In a weekend where they lost their third straight game to start the Premier League season, having conceded nine times and scored a grand total of zero goals, you wouldn’t have thought things could get much worse for them on a day they weren’t even playing.

And yet, it did.

Arsenal’s record of 27 league games unbeaten away from home has stood ever since 2004 when their “Invincibles” set the record, only to fall to Manchester United at Old Trafford (at 49 unbeaten all around). That defeat has always stung, but they at least held the record, it was theirs.

Except now, it’s not.

Manchester United went unbeaten away from home all through last season, in fact the haven’t lost a game on the road since before the Covid lockdown, when they lost 2-0 at Anfield. Since then it was 27 games unbeaten before today, and after a match where they had to battle and scrap and survive a shocking first-half, they came away with a win and are now 28 games unbeaten on the road.

Sorry Arsenal, Man Utd have done you in again.