Manchester United 0-1 Wolves: Three talking points

It was a disappointing loss for Manchester United against Wolverhampton Wanderers, with Ralf Rangnick losing his first game in charge of the Red Devils.

No one would say that United deserved anything else. It was another poor performance, but this time it was punished by Bruno Lage’s side.

Here are the talking points:

1. Rangnick’s substitute choices

There were few players that stood out in a dreadful team performance, but Mason Greenwood was one of them.

The 20-year-old was impressive on the ball and looked like the only forward player who was on-form during the match — that made Rangnick’s decision to take him off for Bruno Fernandes on 60 minutes that more perplexing.

It was a decision that infuriated fans inside and outside of the stadium, with those in Old Trafford letting their feelings known with boos echoing around the ground as United’s no.11 walked off.

Ultimately, it didn’t pay dividends, and it wasn’t the only decision that Rangnick made — or didn’t make — that confused supporters.

A whopping 46% of United’s attacks came from the right side, as per WhoScored, but Aaron Wan-Bissaka was unable to conjure up any sort of offensive threat on the flank.

With just one accurate cross out of six, the right-back struggled to make any clear chances for the Reds despite being gifted the time and space to do so. Diogo Dalot — who has been impressive as of late, and been a much-improved offensive option to his counterpart — remained on the bench for the entire match.

While the decision to bring Marcus Rashford on in the latter stages seemed to be one of optimism, that he would have something to prove after being demoted to the bench for the second game in a row. His performance showed anything but.

Then with a chance to release Bruno Fernandes in the closing minutes of the match, who had acres of space in front of him, Rashford looked like he was attempting to pass the ball to Jose Sa instead, wasting the opportunity and making those watching what he’s doing to warrant an appearance ahead of Donny van de Beek.

Of course, Rangnick cannot be blamed for the mess that is front of him. He’s had disrupted and limited time with the team on the training pitch, but he should be wanting to make the games easier for his team and himself. His decisions from the bench perhaps aren’t doing that so well.

2. Phil Jones & Mason Greenwood standouts

As previously said, Greenwood was the bright spark in attack, but who was the standout in defence?

Was it the star signing from Real Madrid? Was it the £50 million right-back, or the left-back who’s often been solid for United over the last two years?

No, it was the centre-back who’s been mocked, jeered and put down by his own fan base simply for being plagued with injuries throughout his career.

Phil Jones started his first game for Manchester United since the 26th of January 2020, but you would’ve guessed that at least seven of the other players were returning from that layout before you thought that it was Jones.

An intense defensive performance was complimented by a few pieces of impressive progressive play. It hasn’t been Jones’ fault that he’s been offered long contracts and it isn’t his fault that his injury record means that many clubs turn the other way when searching for a centre-back.

Hopefully, this performance will put him in the shop window, because at 29 years of age, he deserves to be playing consistent football.

Meanwhile, Greenwood seemed like the experienced forward among two strikers with a combined age of 70. He linked the play well, showed strength on the ball and was unfortunate to not have his wonderful pass dispatched by Jadon Sancho.

His development is continuing, and he should be the first name on the team-sheet against Aston Villa.

3. The absolute basics were missing

We can be disheartened by the substitute decisions by Rangnick; or the fact that we aren’t a pressing monster yet, but the overarching problem that we saw against Wolves was a lack of the absolute basics.

Rangnick is desperate for his team to control games, but how can you do so when almost every player is misplacing a pass; under/over hitting the simplest passes. Every player was guilty of this, even Jones and Greenwood.

Decision-making. Whether if it was Edinson Cavani failing to realise that we’d have a much better chance of scoring if he slid Greenwood in on the left rather than shooting from distance himself, or Wan-Bissaka playing a lofted suicide pass across his defensive line, United’s decision making was appalling.

Perhaps, United can start focusing on their counter-press, their rotations and being able to control football matches when every player is getting the absolute basics correct.

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