Cristiano Ronaldo and co must face the truth after Manchester United’s latest shambles – David McDonnell
MANCHESTER UNITED 0-1 WOLVES: Joao Moutinho scored the only goal of the game as a United side captained by Cristiano Ronaldo fell to defeat in their opening game of 2022 after a dire performance
Maybe Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was not the problem after all.
Maybe the problems at Manchester United run deeper than simply a change of manager.
Certainly, on the evidence of this insipid display and abject defeat, it is about time United’s players were held to account for such a shambolic season.
Interim boss Ralf Rangnick was supposed to bring a more energetic, pressing mentality to United, but United have reverted to type since his arrival.
Regression, rather than progression, has seen United fail to push on after an impressive half-an-hour of high-pressing in Rangnick’s first game in charge, a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace.
Since then, United have gone backwards.
They may have beaten Burnley 3-1, but the performances against Norwich, Newcastle and this abject offering, have been unacceptable, with little difference to how it was under Solskjaer.
This was Rangnick’s first defeat since taking over from Solskjaer but it has been coming, given the laboured and unconvincing displays leading up to it.
United were so poor their best player was Phil Jones, the defender making his first appearance for two years, after injuries decimated Rangnick’s central defensive options.
It was unfortunate for Jones that the winner, a fine long-range effort from Joao Moutinho, came from his headed clearance, although the blame lay with those who failed to close down the match-winner on the edge of the area.
Wolves deservedly secured a first win at Old Trafford for 42 years, but were aided by United’s failure to offer any kind of threat or cause them any real problems.
Technically, Bruno Lage’s side were superior, moving the ball around the pitch with more assurance and composure, while their opponents lacked any conviction or cohesion.
The tone of the game was set early on, with Wolves dominating possession and United unable to gain any semblance of control.
When they did get the ball, United were wasteful, when they were without it, they were impotent and passive.
Twice in the first 15 minutes David De Gea came to United’s rescue, saving from Daniel Podence and then producing a world-class save to keep out a goal-bound dipping volley from Ruben Neves.
United’s decision-making was awry again in the 42nd minute, Edinson Cavani electing to shoot high into the stands, rather than pick out Greenwood, who was unmarked to his right and primed to shoot.
Wolves ended the first-half with 14 shots to United’s four, conclusive proof of the host’s shortcomings, compared to the endeavour and enterprise of their opponents.
Rangnick brought on Bruno Fernandes, who thudded a shot against the bar within minutes of coming on. Ronaldo had the ball in the net moments later, but the header was correctly ruled out for offside.
Romain Saiss clipped the bar with a free-kick with 15 minutes left, as Wolves continued to threaten and push for the winner their dominance warranted.
That pressure eventually told with eight minutes to go, when United failed to close down Moutinho, allowing him to volley a shot from the edge of the area beyond De Gea.
Wolves goalkeeper Jose Sa made a fine save in the final minute of added time, to keep out a Fernandes free-kick, and condemn United to defeat.
United have a week to regroup, before hosting Aston Villa in the FA Cup next Monday.
But Steven Gerrard and his players will fancy their chances after watching this latest calamitous display by a club with seemingly no plan or coherent idea of how to find their way out of their latest crisis.
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