Manchester United won the opening game of the season 1-0 against Wolves with Raphael Varane scoring the winner.
Here is a look at six things we learned from the fixture…
A real tough night at Old Trafford
Manchester United came into this game heavily favoured. Pundits and fans alike expected a relatively easy three points against a Wolves side who lost their manager a week ago, and have seen several key players leave. Instead we got a really difficult match.
Wolves arguably had the better opportunities during the first hour, with United struggling to create any clear cut chances. With Rasmus Hojlund out injured, United’s lack of a striker was really highlighted.
It was up to Raphael Varane to break the deadlock, doing so from open play after an assist from Aaron Wan-Bissaka. He was an unlikely scorer, and it needed something out of the ordinary to help United take the lead.
Wolves deserve credit for their performance. This was far tougher than United needed or wanted it to be. There is plenty to work on, but importantly, the Red Devils took all three points. That’s an improvement on the defeat we began with last season.
Double sub makes difference
Erik ten Hag had to make a chance with Wolves managing to frustrate United. A double substitution was made, with Jadon Sancho and Christian Eriksen replacing Alejandro Garnacho and Mason Mount.
Both players helped United take control of the game, with Sancho more patient and composed in attack, while Eriksen sat deeper in midfield.
It took just eight minutes after they came on, for United to take the lead. A good manager is often judged by his substitutions, how he affects games, and Ten Hag got it right once again here.
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There was a big defensive effort required from United to see it out, and leave the game with a clean sheet.
The Butcher is back… for 45 minutes
Lisandro Martinez was really missed at the back end of last season after suffering a metatarsal injury. Even though Victor Lindelof was an able replacement, you can’t really replicate Martinez’s physicality.
Martinez looked like he missed playing, and took it out on Wolves’ Pedro Neto in the 18th minute, scything him down and picking up a yellow card.
It was a ‘welcome back’ to the rest of the Premier League, who Martinez has put on notice once again. Nobody will get an easy ride against him, and it is a joy to have him return to Manchester United’s starting line up.
Unfortunately, Martinez was hooked at half-time. Having to play on a booking was not easy, and he had to pull out of one tackle to avoid a red card. Ten Hag brought Lindelof on in his place.
Manchester United too open
Manchester United began with a three man midfield of Casemiro, Mason Mount and Bruno Fernandes. It is an attack minded approach, which some will feel is too high-risk to play against really top teams.
Wolves almost exposed United twice in the first half, flashing chances just wide of the post after counter-attacks. A more clinical team would have taken advantage.
This was a pattern of play throughout the game, with United caught too easily with too many men high up the pitch, failing to impact the play in the final third. Matheus Cunha ran directly with the ball through the centre, straight at the United defence, and it caused all sorts of problems.
Erik ten Hag would have wanted to see his side be harder to play against, and exert more control of the game. It’s too early in the season to make kneejerk judgments, but we will say this – the best is yet to come.
Quiet night for Garnacho
Alejandro Garnacho is trying to change the view that he is better as an impact player from the bench, rather than as a starter. This game was a great opportunity for him.
However, the 19-year-old did not seize the chance against a Wolves side content to sit deep, and failed to impact the game.
Garnacho flashed a shot high across the goal in his first half, and his biggest opportunity came in the second when he had a chance to shoot with his right foot from 25 yards out. Instead he cut inside onto his left, and his eventual shot was blocked.
United flirt with late disaster
This was almost a tough night with a very sour ending after a 96th minute VAR appeal against Andre Onana when he took out a Wolves player, attempting and failing to take a cross.
We’ve seen them given, and no doubt the Wolves fans and pundits will call conspiracy about opposing teams not being given penalties at Old Trafford.
Onana had a lucky escape, and redeemed himself by taking a low diving cross minutes later. Three points, just about.