MAN UNITED 0, WOLVES 1
Ralph Rangnick’s honeymoon as Manchester United’s interim manager is over following a home defeat to Wolves.
It was an abject display from the Reds as Wolves won at Old Trafford for the first time since February 1980.
Almost 42 years of hurt came to an end when Joao Moutinho struck an 82nd minute winner to inflict a first loss in Rangnick’s reign after he was unbeaten in his first five league and cup games.
Rangnick had picked up 10 points from a possible 12, but three of the four league games were against bottom-three teams, wins against Crystal Palace, Norwich and Burnley and a lucky draw at Newcastle United.
Wolves were the first top-half side Rangnick had faced, and the Reds’ shortcomings were blindingly obvious as they were second best as the visitors emerged worthy winners, something Rangnick acknowledged.
United lacked ideas and created little against a well organised side as none of Wolves’ last eight games has produced more than one goal. And 15 of Wolves’ last 16 Premier League wins have been by a single goal.
And United’s form at Old Trafford remains a worry as this was their fourth home league loss from 10 matches as they lie eighth in the home form table.
They remain seventh in the table and the only positive is they are still only four points adrift of fourth place as qualification for the Champions League remains the priority and as is seen as a bare minimum for any manager.Embed from Getty Images
Rangnick admitted: “We didn’t play well at all individually or collectively. In the first half, we had big problems to keep them away from our goal.
“In the second half we changed to a back three and had more control then in a spell of 15 minutes where we could have scored. The goal we conceded, we had enough players in the box. The cross had been defended by Jones but the goal we conceded was like too many this season.
“Moutinho could shoot unmarked with no problems, no pressure. We’re very disappointed about the result and parts of our performance.
“They played with four or five central midfielders, and we had problems to control that part of the pitch. We decided to change our formation and we had more control – they didn’t have as many chances, but we missed our chances, and we have to admit they deserved to win.
“Wolves were the best team we’ve played. We have more problems today than in other games.
“We didn’t press at all. We tried but we were not able to get into those pressing situations. They had an overload in midfield through their wing backs.
“At times we have played well, but today we have to admit they’re better than us.
“The game showed we still have a lot of work to do. We had too many unforced errors.
“I don’t want to speak about individual performances of players. It’s an issue of the whole team.”
Wolves manager Bruno Lage said: “More important than the victory was the way we played.
“We created a lot of chances and, when we create chances, we deserved to score more goals.
“It is one more victory. Lovely stadium, a place with a lot of history but the most important thing is how we played.
“We played in our way, we controlled the first half and missed a lot of chances. We win three points and have more chances than goals.
“We deserved the three points. Every time I am positive and try to win the games. This is football, they had one good chance for Bruno (Fernandes).”
Phil Jones represented United for the first time in 707 days.
The defender, whose last appearance was in a 6-1 FA Cup win against Tranmere on January 26, 2020, came into defence along with Raphael Varane, replacing Harry Maguire and Eric Bailly.
Jones, 29, has struggled with injuries over the years, particularly a long-term knee problem.
Those were the only changes from the side that beat Burnley last time out.
There were also two changes for Wolves as Francisco Trincao and Nelson Semedo came in for Leander Dendoncker and Ki-Jana Hoever. The pacy Adama Traore was again on the bench for the visitors.
Jones’ first headed defensive clearance was greeted with an almighty cheer from Reds’ fans.
Wolves made a confident start and dominated the early possession before creating two great chances to take the lead.
Daniel Podence, released by Raul Jimenez, ran at Jones before seeing his angled shot turned round the post by David De Gea.
The resulting corner was cleared to Ruben Neves who teed himself up for a wonderful 25-yard volley which produced a superb save by De Gea to turn it over the bar.
Wolves carved out another great chance when overlapping wing back Nelson Semedo’s angled effort was beaten away by De Gea, by far the busier of the two goalkeepers.
United continued to struggle and lacked a spark and on the hour Rangnick made his first change as Greenwood made way for Bruno Fernandes who was banned for the Burnley match.
Suddenly mid-half, United finally came to life with a series of chances, more in two minutes than in the first three-quarters of the match.
Nemanja Matic cut the ball back from the left for Fernandes whose shot on the run from 10 yards hit the crossbar.
Ronaldo, captain in the absence of Maguire, headed home a Fernandes free kick, but was flagged for a clear offside.
He was presented with another chance moments later after running on to a through ball only to drag his shot disappointingly wide.
Wolves went close when Romain Saiss bent a free kick over the defensive wall, but it struck the crossbar. The kick had been given when Matic was booked for a cynical trip on substitute Traore.
Rangnick made a second change with 14 minutes left, Marcus Rashford for Jadon Sancho.
Just when it looked as though United were taking control, Wolves snatched the lead in the 82nd minute.
Traore’s cross from the right was headed out by Jones to Moutinho who fired home a shot from the edge of the box low to the right of De Gea for his first goal of the season. And at 35 years and 117 days, he became the oldest visiting scorer at Old Trafford for a Premier League match.
Rangnick’s response was to take off Aaron Wan-Bissaka and throw on teenage winger Anthony Elanga in a do-or-die move.
United had one last chance in the sixth of five added minutes after Jones won a free kick 22 yards out following a high kick by Fabio Silva.
Fernandes took the free kick, hit the target but goalkeeper Jose Sa pulled off a super save. Incredibly, it was only the second on-target goal attempt of the match from United.