A game, result and performance that will be etched into the Wolves history books for years to come. Wolverhampton Wanderers leave Old Trafford victorious for the first time during the Premier League era after their 0-1 win. Top class performances littered the field as Joao Moutinho turned his Manchester playground into the Theatre of Nightmares, striking home eight minutes from time, sending the travelling fans into bank holiday ecstasy.
The combination of positive COVID cases and injuries have caused many a postponement during the congested winter period, as Wolves faced after a two-week layoff from fixtures. Their return was against a Manchester United side under new management, with Ralf Rangnick at the helm. The German is notoriously recognised for his aggressive Gegen-press style of football, yet the evidence of this from this performance was lacking hugely. From minute one, United were unable to keep up with the pace of Lage’s Wolves. Neves and Moutinho schooled Matic and McTominay in their own backyard, through a lesson of midfield mastery, winding the clocks back to their debut season together in the Premier League.
Lage opted for Trincao and Daniel Podence over Adama Traore, who was perhaps left out due to the ongoing transfer speculation that surrounds him, or perhaps to be utilised as an effective substitute later in the affair. Following a string of uninspiring performances, Wolves fans may have questioned the choice of Trincao, but the loanee decided to get more physical than usual, whilst registering another handful of nutmegs doing so – hopefully a sign towards further improvements for the Barca boy. The defence remained unchanged and for good reason, another clean sheet to add to their already impressive tally this season – resolute when called upon, but the midfield prevented most of the concern, against two of the best forwards of this generation.
However, one performance stood out to me and not in the positive sense I had initially hoped for. For me, Raul Jimenez was chasing shadows, there were a couple of moments where he linked up nicely with Trincao and Podence, but something isn’t quite clicking for the Mexican Sensation. Although his movement wasn’t particularly poor, chances on goal are few and far between, and those chances are often flagged offside. Considering the lack of game time and the reported issues with Fabio Silva’s application to warm up, he performed excellently in his late cameo, barring the silly foul, the game management for someone his age was impressive to see.
Wolves’ recent performances have been those of defensive focus, their poor eye for goal has resulted in the recognised label of: “well that’ll be last on Match of the Day.” Therefore, for Wolves to be the team to have the most shots at Old Trafford in the first half of a league game since 03/04 (@OptaJoe on Twitter), was a surprising, yet welcome spectacle. Neves had an audacious goal of the month attempt prevented by a David De Gea early on, combined with a couple of early attempts from the heavily involved Podence. A short rally from United was born after Fernandes rattled the crossbar and CR7 decided he was too good for the offside rule. But it was our own Portuguese veteran that stunned the Theatre of Dreams into a sea of insomnia, as Moutinho fired Wolves ahead late in the game.
Man of the match – Joao Moutinho
Daniel Podence is quickly becoming a fan favourite amongst Wolves fans, another electric performance from the little wizard, intricate passing and his low centre of gravity caused trouble all night long. However, another little genius gets my man of the match. Last season, many wrote Joao “no legs” Moutinho off, including myself. Lage must be promising some quality vino for our midfield mastermind, Joao is playing like a man possessed. Exquisite passing, strong in the tackle, progressive ball carrying, and a goal to top off an easy night at the office for this god amongst men. Truly football heaven.
Things to improve on
For the first time this season, I collectively couldn’t have wished for more from Wolves. Tactical astuteness from Lage, effective substitutions, immense work rate and the quality to comfortably beat the second most expensive squad in Europe. Of course, we can hope for more goals, but if my manager says the goals will come, I will believe every word that he says. Differently, outside of the pitch, there are improvements to be made. Upon evaluation of the board’s current intentions, Lage will almost certainly be frustrated. There are the foundations to really achieve with Bruno in charge, three quality additions are all we need. The transfer strategy will not dampen this result in the slightest though. Thank you, lads. We’ll remember this one for a while.
Sam Beeken is part of the Talking Wolves editorial team – you can follow him here