Wolves beat Manchester United 2-1 for the second time in less than a month on Tuesday night to leave the Red Devils’ Champions League hopes looking bleak.
After Scott McTominay had put United ahead, Wolves drew level on 25 minutes through Diogo Jota after a mistake from Fred, while a second-half own goal from Chris Smalling sealed defeat for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side.
Through the drama, we even had time for Mike Dean to make history when he sent off Ashley Young for a rash tackle on Jota.
Read on for the big winners and losers from Wolves 2-1 Man Utd.
Winner: Scott McTominay
With Wolves defending in a deep, narrow block, United had to be creative in their efforts to break them down. For the first 15 minutes of each half, they succeeded, with the likes of Jesse Lingard and Romelu Lukaku taking up wide positions and doing their best to stretch the pitch.
The result was their midfielders having acres of space in which to operate, whether they wished to charge forward at the Wolves backline, or use their time on the ball to pick out killer passes.
Scott McTominay's goal was his first shot on target for Man Utd in the Premier League in 2019.
When he hits the target, he hits it in style. 🎯 pic.twitter.com/xolkY92nPO
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 2, 2019
One example of the former came in the 13th minute when Conor Coady forced Lingard wide, only for the England international to spin out and play a pass inside to Fred. The Brazilian then shifted the ball on to McTominay and with the no Wolves player within reach, he had the luxury of picking his spot and firing a low shot home from the edge of the box.
The 22-year-old now has his first-ever senior goal and regardless of the circumstances, it’s a personal landmark that he will treasure.
Sure, he got the assist for McTominay’s goal. Sure, he had made more accurate passes (56) than any player on the pitch by the time he was substituted in the 65th minute. Sure, he had made three tackles, the most of any midfielder on the pitch by the time he was hooked. However, that mistake from Fred which led to the Wolves equaliser was simply inexcusable.
David de Gea played out a simple goal-kick to Fred, who himself had called for the ball in a central position. However, instead of doing what any competent midfield pivot would do – let alone a Fernandinho or Sergio Busquets – by taking a look at his surroundings, or maybe consider a delicate touch, the 26-year-old decided to spin aggressively and allow the ball to run away from him.
Joao Moutinho was quickly on top of him to make the challenge and the ball eventually found its way to Raul Jimenez. The Mexican’s brilliant partnership with Diogo Jota (more on that later) meant he knew exactly where to put the ball, and Jota calmly slotted the ball away to level the scores after a poor start from Wolves.
The mistake was symbolic of Fred’s time at Old Trafford and won’t do him any favours in nailing down that central-midfield spot any time soon.
Winner: Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota
We’ve told you how Jimenez and Jota combined to score, now to tell you just what that goal means.
The Portuguese’s strike meant, at that point, each of Wolves’ last seven goals in all competitions had been scored by one of their front two, although Chris Smalling just had to spoil the fun with an own goal in the second half.
Wolves last seven goals across all competitions:
The Wolfpack's leading duo. 🐺 pic.twitter.com/hL4winDMsT
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 2, 2019
While Moutinho and Ruben Neves dominate midfield and make 40-yard passes look like child’s play, Jota and Jimenez are up-front using their mixture of craft, guile and strength to cause absolute havoc for opposition defences.
No doubt Javi Gracia will now be plotting a way for his Watford defenders to keep these two quiet at Wembley on Sunday.
Loser: Ashley Young
He can shout at Mike Dean all he wants about ‘getting the ball’ but the fact is, Ashley Young’s tackle on Jota after 57 minutes was reckless, out of control and high enough to have caused some serious damage on another day.
Given that he’d already been booked, the England international should have known better, especially when the challenge came just as United were re-establishing their dominance of Nuno Espirito Santo’s side.
However, once Young was dismissed, United rarely looked like causing the home side any trouble and eventually caved into the pressure when Chris Smalling inadvertently put the ball in his own net following a goal-mouth scramble.
Just how costly that tackle and the subsequent result will be to United’s Champions League hopes will soon become abundantly clear.
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Winner: Mike Dean
However… he’s done it. He’s finally done it!
After months of teasing us and showing lenient yellow cards, Mike Dean has finally delivered his 100th Premier League red card, with his first being shown to Nolberto Solano in April 2001.
Mike Dean has done it. pic.twitter.com/fMnZ1kbNpR
— Coral (@Coral) April 2, 2019
Alongside Nemanja Matic, Juan Mata and Rafael, Young is the fourth United player on Dean’s hit list and it’s likely to be an honour he’ll cherish for the rest of his life.
The only disappointment was the 50-year-old failing to lift up his shirt to reveal the ‘100 not out’ message we all craved.
Loser: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Ole has done a fine job of steering the United wheel since replacing Jose Mourinho as manager, but Tuesday’s defeat to Wolves in just his second game in permanent charge could be a costly one.
After Spurs fell to a late defeat at the weekend, the Red Devils had a wonderful chance to sneak into the top four and really ramp up the pressure on Mauricio Pochettino’s men.
However, United were unable to take advantage of two strong spells at Molineux, falling to a seventh league defeat of the season and remaining in fifth place.
Maurizio Sarri and Unai Emery will also be licking their lips at this result.
Winner: Man Utd’s top four rivals
United’s defeat has certainly let Spurs off the hook for their horrendous run of form recently, but Unai Emery and Maurizio Sarri will also be over the moon at Tuesday night’s result.
Sarri, struggling in his role at Chelsea and coming under huge pressure from his own fans, now knows that a win over Brighton on Wednesday will see his side go ahead of United in the Premier League table and give them a real chance of securing Champions League football next season.
After their win over Newcastle on Monday, Emery’s Arsenal are now in pole position to secure a seat at Europe’s top table for 2019/20, sitting two points ahead of the Red Devils with a game in hand.
And we’ll come back to them for a second; Spurs have got away with it, again. A win over Crystal Palace in the first game at their new stadium on Wednesday could be a huge step toward Champions League football, while it could leave United just out of reach of the promised land.