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Wolves 1-2 Man Utd Match Report

Wolves were overcome by a youthful Manchester United side as they bid farewell to their departing manager Nuno Espirito Santo. 

Antony Elanga gave the visitors the lead with a bullet header from 12 yards, but the lead was cancelled out by Nelson Semedo who poked home from Fabio Silva’s pass. 

United retook the lead on the brink of half-time as Juan Mata converted a controversial penalty, and it proved to be the decisive goal. 

 

Match Report

This match was always going to be the backdrop to what was an emotional farewell to a coach who has transformed the club over his four year tenure. Nuno was greeted by hundreds of fans as he said goodbye to the city that has welcomed him with open arms, and it proved to be as emotional as we thought it would be. 

However, there was a game to be played, and Nuno went with his tried and trusted five at the back with a midfield trio and two up top. Underperforming players Joao Moutinho and Leander Dendoncker started with Ruben Neves, whilst the usual back three of Conor Coady, Romain Saiss and Willy Boly kept their places. Rayan Ait-Nouri played what could be his last game for Wolves should they decide not to take up their permanent option to buy. 

Fabio Silva and Adama Traore were tasked with providing the creative output, and the latter did what he needed. Traore opened up the game only four minutes in when he burst past several United defenders before putting his shot wide of the post. Young Brandon Williams, who has previously performed well against the Spaniard, couldn’t get close to him and this allowed Wolves to create space in behind and look dangerous. 

The danger wasn’t able yield results however, as Wolves fell behind early on yet again this season on 13 minutes. A cross from the right-hand side beat the back three, and 19-year-old Elanga peeled off Ait-Nouri to power home a header for his first ever Premier League goal. The goal was indicative of the issues Wolves have had aerially this season and it was again frustrating to see a lack of learning from their mistakes as the centre-backs were sluggish to close out any chance of an effort on goal. 

Soon after going behind, things went from bad to worse as Traore had to be taken off with what looked like a hamstring issue – not the first injury woe Wolves have had this season. Willian Jose came on to replace him and it looked drab for a team that has struggled in front of goal this season. 

Fortunately for the side, there was still some good football left in the tank as they were able to combine the midfield and forward lines effectively to draw level. Dendoncker made rare use of his physical stature to burst through midfield after a lovely Moutinho flick, he then played the ball on for Fabio Silva who placed an excellent ball across the box and Nelson Semedo was there to side foot home his first of the season 39 minutes in.

The game ended up being an even contest after the equaliser, but Rui Patricio still had to stay alive as he made a sharp save at his near post to deny United a second. The goal wasn’t to be denied though as Mike Dean controversially awarded a penalty to the away side in added time of the first half after Saiss was adjudged to have tripped Donny Van De Beek. Juan Mata confidently dispatched the spot kick and it was back to the drawing board for Wolves at the break. 

The second half proved to be a real stalemate yet again as Wolves found it difficult to break down United’s defence, either through the wide/inside channels and centrally. Willian Jose was proving to be as ineffective as ever and Silva couldn’t find much service to play off. The Red Devils could and should have added a third when Dan James was sent clean through on goal, but his poor attempt at a chipped finish bounced well wide of the net. 

United’s young side were able to hold on to all three points despite some late pressure from Wolves which saw the midfield push up and Morgan Gibbs-White added centrally to add some creative flair. 

It wasn’t the way Nuno would have wanted to bow out, but it’s a result which summarises the season and shows why Fosun have been looking for a new direction heading into next season. 

The scenes at full-time were incredible, as Nuno was given a true lap of honour with fans belting out the famous ‘Nuno had a dream’ and lauding him with the loudest cheers and applause heard at Molineux in over a year. It showed how he is a manager that has connected an entire city and has been a stellar person and gentleman throughout his whole tenure. The eloquence of his quotes, the memories of Europe and off the field connections were all symbolised in what was a magical moment for him and his coaching staff. 

He was given a guard of honour by his players and looked on with teary eyes as he left the pitch for the final time. A fitting farewell for the best Wolves manager of a generation. 

The club now look on to an enormous summer which will show what Fosun have outlined for next season. The next managerial appointment is expected to be swift, but no matter who they are, they will be backed by a full house at Molineux next season, with fans ready to see a rejuvenated squad that can push up the league and build on from the foundations built by Nuno. 

Tom Parker is part of the Talking Wolves editorial team – you can follow him on Twitter here.

Billy Wright Stand Molineux

Wolves 1-0 Sheff Utd Match Report

Wolves made it back-to-back wins in the Premier League for the first time since February thanks to a first goal in old gold for Willian Jose. It was a dull encounter which ultimately confirmed Sheffield United’s relegation to the SkyBet Championship. The Blades were spirited and more than a match for Wolves, but the away side failed to find the net meaning Nuno’s men cement themselves in 12th place on 41 points.

Wolves (3-4-3): Patricio, Boly, Coady, Saiss, Semedo, Dendoncker, Moutinho, Ait-Nouri, Podence, Jose, Traore (Subs Used: Vitinha, Silva)

Sheff Utd (3-5-2): Ramsdale, Baldock, Ampadu, Egan, Bryan, Stevens, Osborn, Norwood, Fleck, Brewster, McGoldrick. (Subs Used: Mousset, Burke, Bogle)

Just as Nuno seemed to have set out his stall for a four at the back formation for the remainder of the season, he changed it once again and opted for the more familiar back three. It was surprising to see after a relatively comfortable defensive display against Fulham last weekend, and the return of Wolves’ strongest defender Willy Boly. The absence of Pedro Neto may have forced his hand, but the likes of Fabio Silva, Vitinha and Morgan Gibbs-White have all earned more playing time than they have received in recent months. Daniel Podence adopted a more central position, playing in the ‘Number 10’ role behind Willian Jose and Adama Traore, the latter of which embraced his role in a front two. Sheffield United interim manager Paul Heckingbottom has continued to with the 3-5-2 formation which was prominent throughout Chris Wilder’s time in charge, meaning the sides were relatively similar in terms of shape. 

And it was not just in shape where Wolves and Sheffield United were indifferent, as a cagey first half ended goalless. Willy Boly came closest to opening the scoring after an unorthodox back heel was cleared onto the bar before falling into the arms of Ramsdale. United had little in the way of opportunities but controlled possession well, with Wolves happy for the away side to keep the ball in their own half. Wolves improved in the second half, with the game panning out almost exactly as many will have predicted. Willian Jose’s goal owed a lot to Nelson Semedo who blocked Edna Stevens effort just seconds before at the other end, before Traore’s great work to set up the Brazilian. Sheffield United then opened up and forced a fingertip save from Rui Patricio as Edna Stevens turned away from Leander Dendoncker on the edge of the area. However, Wolves saw the game through without any major scares, and perhaps should have doubled their head as Romain Saiss missed from close range after controlling a Joao Moutinho free kick in a good position.   

 

Key Moments 

Jose Goal  – A deadly Wolves counterattack ended in a very welcome goal for Willian Jose. It could have been so different had Nelson Semedo not blocked Enda Stevens goal bound strike at the other end, before picking out Daniel Podence on the right. He found Dendoncker who was closed down by Bryan, leaving space for Adama Traore to run at John Egan. He passed the Ireland international with ease and found the unmarked Willian Jose who fired home beyond Ramsdale from six yards.

 

Man of the Match – Adama Traore

It was a game that needed Adama Traore, without whom Wolves would probably not have left with all three points. While he did at times appear wasteful in the final third, he was keen to get on the ball and direct in attack. He embraced the more central role and looked to support Willian Jose higher up the pitch, something that led to an improved performance from the Brazilian striker too. After coming under criticism this season, one goal and two assists in his last three games have shown that Adama is still one of Wolves’ most valuable players.

 

Final Thoughts 

Wolves must keep hold of Traore 

If there was even the slightest bit of doubt in any Wolves fans mind that Adama Traore wasn’t a key player in the side, they have surely been eradicated in these past few weeks. He is very much back to his best, having a big influence on games and finally getting his first Premier League goal of the season, as well as two assists. But these stats have not done Traore justice this season, with his stunning goal in the FA Cup win over Crystal Palace, his wonder strike which cannoned off the crossbar onto the goalkeeper and into the net against Leeds and the penalty he won which Neves converted against Brighton all seemingly forgotten about by the stat enthusiasts. He poses a threat at any given time and can produce a spontaneous moment of brilliance to win a football match when others would not, as shown with his goal in stoppage time against Fulham last weekend. 

 

The ever-improving Semedo 

Club record signing Nelson Semedo came in for a lot of criticism early in the season, much of which was vindicated after a number of lacklustre performances which included mistakes directly leading to goals. Since the turn of the year the Portuguese international has improved tenfold and is beginning to show why Wolves paid such a high fee for him. He is comfortable in possession and has adapted his game having realised Premier League players will not give you the time on the ball he may have had in LaLiga. He looks to get forward at every opportunity and began to work up a promising partnership with Pedro Neto prior to his injury. And perhaps most important of all Semedo has cut out the mistakes and become a reliable and solid defender as both a wing back and a full back. He handled Fulham’s Antonee Robinson extremely well at Craven Cottage, and also produced a vital block in Saturdays win which ultimately led to the winning goal. He could well be a crucial part of the side next season as Wolves look to get back to into the European hunt. 

 

This just isn’t entertainment 

Successive wins mean Wolves are all but safe and could even push for a top half finish if they finish the season strongly. However, almost every game is met with numerous complaints about just how boring Wolves have been for large parts of this season, and this is hard to argue against. There are a number of factors that explain Wolves’ demise into the bottom half of the table, and many fans accept that. But it is hard to accept the drab football that has been on offer, especially when playing three at the back. The narrow win against a stranded Sheffield United side brought back fairly recent memories of the 2015/16 season, when Wolves went 4 successive home games drawing 0-0 and averaged just one shot on target per game. Then Head Coach Kenny Jackett came under intense pressure with such poor football on offer and was relieved of his duties by new owners Fosun at the end of the season. Now Wolves are nowhere near that stage, but the entertainment value must improve. Wolves have very little to play for with just six games remaining, so some form of experimentation with some more attacking football on offer would improve the mood among the fanbase who are still watching on from home. 

Ciaran Barker is part of the Talking Wolves editorial team – you can follow him on Twitter here.