Phil Jones and David de Gea were the only positives as Manchester United lost 1-0 to Wolverhampton Wanderers on Monday.
Manchester United started the game strongly, but their dominance only lasted for a moment, as Wolverhampton Wanderers thoroughly outplayed them for much of the first half. And it was only due to some solid work by David de Gea and Phil Jones that the two sides went into half-time with the score still reading 0-0.
The hosts stepped their game up a notch after the break, but it was still not enough to trouble Wolves, with Jose Sa only having one big save to make all game. Unfortunately for Manchester United, that effort came too late, with the stop from the Portuguese goalkeeper helping Wolves earn a 1-0 win.
The only goal in the game came in the 82nd minute, as a headed clearance from Jones fell straight to Joao Moutinho, who had acres of space to unleash a precise half volley into the bottom right corner. That strike condemned Manchester United to their first defeat under Ralf Rangnick, with their top-four hopes suffering another setback. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Rangnick’s men.
David de Gea: 7/10
As has been the running theme this season, de Gea was largely clutch with his performance and made several critical saves, especially in the first half when Wolves threatened to run away with the game. However, the Manchester United goalkeeper could not have done anything to deny Joao Moutinho’s precise strike.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka: 5/10
Preferred over Diogo Dalot, Wan-Bissaka spent most of the game in the Wolves half, which piled the pressure on Phil Jones. However, despite being an outlet on the right flank, the 24-year-old barely carried a threat and produced just one noteworthy cross all game. Dalot must be recalled in the next match.
Phil Jones: 7/10
Jones was a surprise but forced inclusion in the starting lineup. And the beleaguered defender was, by far, the standout performer among outfield players for Manchester United. That, in turn, is quite telling as to how dreadful the Red Devils were at the opposite end of the pitch.
Phil Jones’ game numbers vs. Wolves:
90% pass accuracy
7/8 duels won
7 ball recoveries
3 blocked shots
Stepped up after a long time away. ? pic.twitter.com/csqV1Mplpi
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) January 3, 2022
As for Jones, the Englishman made some crucial clearances and interceptions, reading the game well. However, one of his clearances fell straight to Moutinho before the Portuguese international netted the winner. But overall, Jones was extremely solid and will have had his confidence boosted.
Raphael Varane: 6/10
With Harry Maguire out injured, the mantle of marshalling the troops at the back fell on the able shoulders of Raphael Varane. While the Frenchman did just that for the most part, there were a few hairy moments that he would like to forget. However, Varane cannot be faulted for the goal scored by Wolves.
Luke Shaw: 5/10
After showing signs of resurgence in his last appearance, Shaw reverted to type against Wolves. The English international was sloppy with the ball at his feet, losing possession an alarming 18 times. And he also struggled to contain Adama Traore following his introduction in the second half. What has happened to him this season?
Scott McTominay: 4/10
After a stunning performance against Burnley, McTominay produced a “disasterclass” on Monday. The Scot was wasteful in possession and sloppy off the ball, which meant he could not provide ample cover for the defenders. To make matters worse, he was nowhere to be seen and arrived on the scene too late to deny Joao Moutinho a scoring opportunity.
Nemanja Matic: 5/10
Earning a second successive start, Matic’s levels dropped remarkably. While the Serb looked to move Manchester United forward at every opportunity, he struggled to break the shackles imposed by the solid Wolves midfielders. On top of that, the visitors outran the veteran star in the middle of the park one too many times. It is a mystery why Fred was not involved on Monday.
Mason Greenwood: 6/10
Mason Greenwood completed 4/7 dribbles vs. Wolves, no player on the pitch managed more.
Unlucky to be the one coming off. ? pic.twitter.com/NhlaNJaM6A
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) January 3, 2022
Greenwood was, by far, the best Manchester United attacker on the day. The youngster was the only one trying to increase the tempo and force Manchester United into the game in a first half that Wolves dominated. However, as the minutes wore on, his influence started waning. His substitution was not taken kindly to by the Old Trafford faithful.
Jadon Sancho: 5/10
With Bruno Fernandes relegated to the bench, the mantle of creating the chances fell largely on the young shoulders of Jadon Sancho. Unfortunately for Manchester United, the young Englishman could not create any opening and became increasingly wasteful the closer he got to the Wolves box.
Edinson Cavani: 5/10
It is not every day that Cavani is poor in the final third. However, Monday was one of those days when the Uruguayan striker just could not manage to force his way into the game. While he cannot be faulted for lack of effort, Cavani could not find a way to coexist with his teammates.
Cristiano Ronaldo: 5/10
Donning the armband for Manchester United for the first time since returning to the club, Ronaldo produced a performance that was anything but captain-like. And instead of coming at the end of an opening himself, he gifted Wolves one chance, although he came through unscathed. Ronaldo put the ball in the back of the net once but was denied the goal as he was offside.
March 19, 2008: Ronaldo captains Manchester United for the first time
January 3, 2022: Ronaldo captains Manchester United for the second time pic.twitter.com/pOyycf4uDN
— B/R Football (@brfootball) January 3, 2022
Bruno Fernandes: 6/10
Introduced at the hour mark in place of Mason Greenwood, Bruno Fernandes facilitated improved tempo from Manchester United. However, he should have buried the chance that came his way instead of smashing the woodwork. The Portuguese international was denied superbly by Jose Sa late in the game.
Marcus Rashford: N/A
Given the final 15 minutes to tip the scales in Manchester United’s favour, Rashford barely got into the Wolves box and was utterly wasteful with the ball at his feet. His struggles show no signs of letting up.
Anthony Elanga: N/A
A late introduction, Elanga could not get in on the act in the dying embers of the game.