Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Manchester United vs. Wolves score: Ronaldo, Fernandes come up empty as Red Devils start 2022 with a loss

A header from Phil Jones leads to a late winner. While you’d expect that to be a Manchester United victory, their struggles continued Monday with Joao Moutinho getting a winner for Wolves in the 82nd minute. Wolverhampton’s 1-0 victory over Manchester United was the first win for club at Old Trafford since 1980 as their defense laid the foundation to a victory.

Recently appointed Ralf Rangnick continued to juggle tough lineup decisions as he figures out his best starting 11, benching Bruno Fernandes in his return from suspension in favor of Edinson Cavani and Jadon Sancho. While Fernandes has been out of form, it’s safe to say that benching him didn’t add much to the team as United struggle to adapt to the 4-2-2-2 formation. 

Wolves dominated the match from the first kick, forcing David de Gea into multiple saves in the first few minutes. United were never able to adjust. Cristiano Ronaldo came close to connecting to an Aaron Wan-Bissika header, but it wasn’t close enough to give United the lead. The struggles continued but the match got to halftime scoreless, even though Wolves had the better chances.

Early in the second half, Scott McTominay picked up a yellow card for a challenge on Daniel Podence which will see him miss United’s trip to Aston Villa. Given that he has been one of the few players coming into form under Rangnick, that is quite the blow. Luke Shaw also picked up his fifth yellow and will be suspended for that match.

United did get the ball in the back of the net in the second half, but Ronaldo was offsides, causing the goal to be called off. He came close again soon after as they began pushing the pace but again it wouldn’t lead to a goal. Wolves got their opener as Moutinho got ahold of an attempted clearance from Jones, shooting it while megging McTominay for the goal. 

It’s quite the result for Bruno Lage’s side, which has climbed into eighth in the league. They are also only six points off of a European spot which shows how good a job Lage has been doing. To start the season, Wolves were putting on a show going forward but they weren’t able to close out matches, but switching to a defense-first method has led to quite the run of form as Wolves have only allowed 14 goals, good for second best in the league.

For Manchester United, things are becoming concerning as most of the team looks directionless under Rangnick. It may be time for a formation shift as this is a team used to playing with traditional wingers but it is unknown if that’s something that Rangnick is considering. But with the race for top four heating up, this is something that will need to be figured out sooner rather than later as seventh-place United is currently four points behind fourth-place Arsenal with a game in hand.

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