Manchester United travelled to Molineux to face Wolverhampton Wanderers for the Red Devils’ final game of 2022.
Erik ten Hag was keen to build on a brilliant win against Nottingham Forest and use it as a launchpad to finish the year on a high note and go above Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League table.
The United manager fielded the same starting XI as he did against Forest, with the exception of Alejandro Garnacho who came in for Marcus Rashford.
Ten Hag confirmed that Rashford was dropped for “internal disciplinary” reasons and so opted for Garnacho to start in attack alongside Anthony Martial and Antony.
Here are three things we learned from Manchester United’s 1-0 win against Wolverhampton Wanderers
Poor first half
Ten Hag’s men were poor in the first half in comparison to their displays against Burnley and Forest.
The Reds struggled to break down a resiliently stubborn Wolves defence that did well to keep the 20-time English champions at bay.
In the midfield, United got dominated by the Wolves trio consisting of Ruben Neves, Joao Moutinho and Matheus Nunes. Casemiro, Bruno Fernandes and Christian Eriksen barely made any meaningful impact in the opening 45 minutes, with the Brazilian coming closest to holding his own.
United did not fashion nearly enough chances. The best chance of the half fell to Garnacho who came up in a one versus one against Jose Sa, but the Argentine could not guide the ball past the Wolves’ shot-stopper.
Towards the end of the first half Martial also had a golden chance from a brilliant cross but could not connect the ball. An offside Antony also failed to put it past Sa.
At times United looked defensively vulnerable causing the defenders to come up with last-ditch tackles and blocks.
Several of the players didn’t turn up and looked bereft of any ideas. Wolves were always going to be a tricky proposition but Ten Hag would have been disappointed by some of his stars and their awful showings heading into the break.
Antony extremely poor again
Against Forest, Antony was United’s poorest attacker by a margin and he continued his sub-par performance against Wolves.
Antony lacked any threat and most of United’s attacking forays broke down with the Brazilian. His passing was also not up to the level.
Antony’s fundamental flaw was on full display against Wolves – the winger’s overreliance on his left foot.
Opposition defenders on multiple occasions clocked Antony’s shifting of the ball to his left and blocked this action, effectively neutralizing his influence.
The 22-year-old attacker failed to take his man on when opportunities presented themselves. From a defensive point of view, Antony was also reluctant to track back in instances where any other decent team would have capitalized and punished United.
Ten Hag has a decision to make with regard to Antony. Should he continue playing him through bad form or take him from the firing line?
Lack of quality depth still a major issue
The lack of quality bench options available to Ten Hag was a glaring issue against Wolves.
Apart from Rashford who came in for Garnacho after the break, the United boss was limited in who he could bring on as an impact substitution.
Ten Hag for instance had no one who could come on for Antony. In place of Martial, Ten Hag brought on Donny van de Beek, hardly a striker by any stretch of the imagination.
The absence of a left-footed centre-half also made it necessary to play Shaw at the heart of the defence yet again.
United must dip into the January transfer window and get Ten Hag one or two additions. The club must bolster the squad and aid the manager in his ambition to get United back into the Champions League.
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