Wolves showed progress but were ultimately overwhelmed by Manchester United at Molineux. In a game which entertained despite a lack of goals, Marcus Rashford came off the bench at half time to score the winner with a quarter of an hour to go, with Wolves coming particularly close either side of it through a Neves free kick and a late Jiménez header, both saved by David De Gea.
Here are how the players rated:
The keeper ended a year in which he picked up two player of the season awards in impressive style again. He came out smartly to deny Garnacho early in the first half and was alert to smother a close-range effort from Antony, while he could be forgiven from conceding the goal with his view blocked by his defence. If Wolves are to stay in the Premier League, the man just back from his first major tournament with Portugal will certainly have made his contribution.
Semedo remains an enigma, having struggled massively at times this season. Against United he got forward gamely, although his slack back pass almost gifted Garnacho an opener in the first half. Harshly booked, he had to walk a tightrope and made a couple of clumsy challenges early in the second half, before being withdrawn for Jonny. Aside from those uncomfortable moments it was a decent performance, and there is still the suspicion that he can continue to offer more.
Collins had what was possibly his best game for Wolves. While his stats didn’t necessarily flatter him, he looked must more assured than at times, while excelling to deny Martial in the first half and winning the ball well. Wolves looked relatively solid as a defensive unit, and he stepped out of defence and rode a couple of tackles impressively before being fouled, showing off his technical ability. Much improved today.
Kilman also looked better, helping Wolves to pass out of the press and play higher up at times. He made a couple of key interventions on the ground, but only won 1 of 6 aerial duels and lost possession 11 times (SofaScore) as Wolves struggled to get the ball to the forwards in the second half. As with Collins, there was more solidity and he showed glimpses of his excellent form last season.
Bueno joined Semedo in getting forward early in the game and has looked to be a crucial part of Wolves’ press resistance since he broke into the first team in October. Bueno linked up well with Podence in another respectable outing but was brought off early-ish for Aït-Nouri. Their battle for the left back position still has plenty of legs.
Matheus was excellent, showing the well-rounded athleticism and technical ability which meant Wolves were so lauded for securing his signature in the summer. Matheus’ ability to keep possession under pressure adds another dimension to Wolves’ midfield, and his ability to carry the ball is something Wolves have been crying out for. He drew three fouls including a couple of poor challenges and bravely continued to play on after a painful looking injury to the knee area. He deserves to be given his flowers for a brilliant performance despite the loss.
Wolves’ midfield faced a tough assignment in dominating the midfield against Casemiro and Moutinho rarely controls the tempo of games like he has done in the past. The experienced Portuguese wasn’t at his best while consistently losing the ball, but he did a lot of dirty work competing and getting forward to support the attackers on the edge of the final third.
Neves came as close as anyone for Wolves, forcing David De Gea to extended two handed to push away a free kick. He wasn’t at his vintage best, only completing two thirds of his passes, but a driven half volleyed through ball to Rayan Aït Nouri got Molineux on its feet. The captain got stuck in defensively however, winning three of four ground duels (SofaScore) and contributing to a decent midfield performance from the hosts.
Hwang is beginning to tempt Wolves fans into believing that he can be reclaimed after some rough outings in 2022. He looks to have picked up confidence from his World Cup achievements with South Korea and was willing to link with Semedo early, while also committing himself defensively across the pitch. He had a quiet second half as Wolves found their front three isolated, but for the third straight game there are signs that he deserves patience.
Costa is a square peg in a round hole, but his commitment cannot be questioned. He presses as much as possible but isn’t the right physical or technical profile to be easily successful in the Wolves system. Removed at half time, the team attack became less effective in his absence which pays testament to the difficulty of his role. Hopefully Matheus Cunha is the answer to the central striker problem for Wolves and Julen Lopetegui.
Podence did what he always does, attempting to create and get involved. Not at his best, he was unable to link with Hwang and Costa/Traoré when half opportunities appeared, although he did find space for a shot early. Probably the most active of the original front three, he also suffered from a collective inability from Wolves to get the ball out of defence accurately in the second 45 minutes.
Adama Traoré (Costa 46’)
Adama had one sensational run but might have been expected to have more of an impact. In 45 minutes he did his best to provide an outlet but with limited benefit, and couldn’t show the sparkle which Wolves fans have come to expect.
Jonny Castro Otto (Semedo 65’)
Jonny was brought on to protect Semedo but his two knee injuries in two years are clearly impacting his contributions. Provided a sensational cross for a Wolves half chance late in the game.
Rayan Aït-Nouri (Moutinho 72’)
Aït-Nouri couldn’t repeat his late game heroics from Goodison Park on Boxing Day, and had limited impact bar a promising break forward.
Toti Gomes (Bueno 72’)
Toti’s introduction saw Wolves immediately concede but by chance more than his error. He didn’t see much of the ball in 17 minutes.
Raúl Jiménez (Podence 82’)
Rumours about his departure continue to swirl, but he almost grabbed Wolves a point at the death when a powerful header was saved by De Gea. While Cunha gets up to speed, he may deserve one more chance to be a Wolves hero at Villa Park on January 4th.