Man United 1 v 1 Wolves: Two teams in contrasting spirits

United

Wolverhampton Wanderers and Manchester United have experienced very different starts to the season so far – can Mourinho turns things around?

With a fantastic Moutinho equaliser, Wolves drew level with Manchester United, and then proceeded to admirably hold onto their position. In doing so, they added Man Utd to a growing collection of scalps so far this season. That list also includes Manchester City, who were also held to a draw.

But whereas Man City and their fans just considered that particular result an unfortunate blip on a confident start to the season, fans of their Manchester counterparts are not so forgiving.

United

Man City will of course be challenging for the title, and are indeed favourites to do so. United, however, are looking like a team so far that will be happy to sneak into the top 4.

To paraphrase Jonathan Wilson : What are they? A vanity project for Pogba? A strangely misplaced Adidas marketing ploy? A laudromat for the Glazers reputation?

What’s up with the Red Devils?

It’s not just the result, but it is the performance that will have many Red Devil fans worried. Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho has admitted he “didn’t like his team” during their 1-1 draw with Wolves at Old Trafford. He was particularly unhappy with Paul Pogba’s role in the Wolves equaliser, where he was dispossessed in midfield after an over-elaborate run.

Mourinho bemoaned the fact that he had warned his players before the game about Wolves’ press – encouraging them to not dwell on the ball for too long.

“So you concede in a situation that it’s harder to accept. That is one goal you concede. You have 90 minutes to show a different attitude. And I think we have to do better.

“You don’t have much time to have the ball, to turn, to one-touch. You know you don’t have much of that.”

Pogba had plenty to say as well after the match, apparently accusing his boss of holding United back with his negative approach.

“We’re at home, and we should play much better against Wolves,” said Pogba.

“When we’re at home we should attack, attack, attack. That’s Old Trafford. We’re here to attack. I think teams are scared when they see Manchester United attacking and attacking.

“I’m not the manager, I cannot, like, say that, but obviously we should show more options of playing.”

Such comments are hardly likely to foster a strong relationship between the United manager and his most expensive signing. In fact, Mourinho has now said that, due to Pogba’s attitude both off and on the pitch, he will no longer be vice-captain.

 

United players not up to scratch

It’s not just Pogba who has been struggling, however. Rashford, suspended here, has yet to really make an impact this season. His competitor for the right-wing berth, Lingard, has failed to take advantage of the England forward’s recent red card. Lukaku has had a solid start to the season, but he was quiet and wasteful here.

And then we come to the real problem position, left-wing. With Martial not in the slightest bit of form, Sanchez is pretty unchallenged in this role. The £400k-per-week signing from Arsenal, however, has failed to deliver in spectacular fashion, thus far.

United

With fans likening his move to the Chelsea-Torres disaster, he has delivered 3 goals (one from a penalty rebound) in 22 games. He’s neither justifying his reputation or his price tag and wages. Even worse, his signing alienated a large section of the fan-base who saw Martial as United’s next big prospect.

 

What’s up with Jose?

Mourinho has cut a frustrated figure throughout his tenure at Man United. He has been tetchy in press conferences, has publicly lambasted some of his players, and in general does not look the Mourinho we are all used to seeing.

Most of the speculation as to why surrounds two main problems. Firstly, the support that he has been getting from the United management team has, in his mind, been lacking. He apparently gave a list of targets for the summer Transfer Window to Ed Woodward, and was not able to get any of them.

United

Secondly, he has given the impression of being bemused and annoyed with the amount of player power that exists in the modern game. Something that has been typified by the situation at Chelsea ever since Mourinho’s first departure, players these days are used to calling the shots.

Being brands in their own right, many young players are the antithesis of the Mourinho approach – where you sacrifice all for the good of the rest of the team.

Utilising these kind of players is what brought him all this success in the first place. There are some, think Lukaku, Lingard, Matic, and – more recently – Shaw, who buy into this vision – but it doesn’t seem to be enough of the team.

 

Wolves Starting Strong

In contrast to their more illustrious opponents, the mood in the Wolves camp couldn’t be much better right now. 6 goals conceded in 6 games.

They’ve held both Manchester clubs to a draw. Confident wins with clean sheets against less illustrious opponents. Wolves are nicely adjusting to life of the table, much quicker than most promoted sides.

This may be because, they aren’t your ‘typical’ promoted side. Thanks to super-agent Jorge Mendes they have signed a number of top players who would be at home in far more prestigious squads. Patricio, Moutinho, Neves, for example, bring a touch of class that has not been seen in a Wolves team for many a year.

United

Of course, its early days so far. But with their spine of Patricio, Boly, Neves and Jimenez, and players such as Traore on the sidelines, Wolves look well-equipped for the challenges ahead.

Indeed, they had the better chances throughout this game, save for a brief spell at the end of the game where United were camped in the Wolves half, searching for a winner.

 

What’s next up for United?

The games come thick and fast before the next international break. Following their League Cup embarrassment, United travel to West Ham at the weekend, before facing Valencia at home in the Champions League the following Tuesday. After the October international break, they face Chelsea, Juventus and Everton in 8 days.

Each of these teams will cause problems for United in their own way. Failure to deal with these challenges may see Jose’s position become close to untenable going into the Christmas period.

Can he re-find the magic that we are all so used to seeing him produce?

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The United situation is one that is constantly evolving and developing. When I started writing about United’s problems, this was before they had gone out on penalties to Derby, courtesy of a wonder free-kick, a goalkeeper red card, and Phil Jones missing the crucial penalty. When it rains it pours eh, Jose? 

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