Ruben Neves is a player who has been linked to Manchester United on several occasions. He is a mastermind with the ball, pulling off often mesmorising passes, and his goals reel for Woverhampton Wanderers is something to marvel at.
When United faced Wolves for the first time under Ralf Rangnick, it accumulated in the German’s first loss for the club. Within the match, was a spectacular effort from Neves coming in the 11th minute; a goal that would have been touted as goal of the season if not for a wonderful save from David de Gea.
Most wonder-goals aren’t planned. Most wonder-goals are derived from situations where no-one expects them – one player just decides to whack the ball from 30-yards or throw their feet over their head as a one-off.
But with this almost wonder-goal, it was perfectly planned due to United’s problems with defending set-pieces.
Speaking on the set-up for his strike, Neves told the Athletic: “We work on set pieces a lot, every week. We knew United just put one man outside their box, so the idea was to put Fernando Marcal and me outside the box.
“I knew if the cross travelled beyond the penalty spot, normally it will be cleared more to the right and not towards Marcal. If the ball goes short and is headed away from the near post, it will come towards Marcal.
“But behind the penalty spot, it will go back [to the right]. As soon as I saw the ball going beyond the penalty spot, normally it will come to me.
“And because they only have one player outside the box, he’ll be in the centre — to cover Marcal and me. As soon as I saw the ball behind the penalty spot, I took two or three steps back and then controlled and shot.”
United’s problems from set-pieces, both defending them and attacking them, have been a dignificant hamper in their season. They have scored just three, all coming in the last few months under Rangnick – with one of them being a 22-yard shot from Bruno Fernandes that, lets be honest, should have been saved by Emi Martinez.
United need to get better on defending them, as Neves has demonstrated how easy it is to take advantage of poor defending.