Even though Manchester United defeated Wolves 1-0 to start their Premier League season off well, it wasn’t an easy triumph.
Raphael Varane’s header in the second half was enough for Erik ten Hag’s team to secure the three points on a night that provided many lessons for what both teams would face this season.
An impressive debut for Andre Onana
The new goalie for Manchester United made his widely anticipated club debut, and he surely did not disappoint.
Onana was a rare bright light for the Red Devils on an otherwise lackluster evening as he demonstrated both his skill with the ball and, more importantly, his ability to keep the ball out of the goal.
The former Inter Milan star, who cost £43.8 million to acquire, made six saves throughout the Premier League match, including two of them quickly one after the other to deny Fabio Silva and maintain his team in the lead.
He did have one embarrassing moment later when, while bursting out to try to clear Pedro Neto’s cross, he accidentally killed Sasa Kalajdzic in the vicinity.
In this instance, Onana did manage to get away with his foolish challenge, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
Matheus Cunha is the real deal
Wolves had been predicted to have a challenging season in the Premier League, but after their match at Old Trafford, they might just disprove their detractors.
Against Man United, Gary O’Neil’s team enjoyed 49 percent possession and an incredible 23 shots.Even if they didn’t score, there’s no denying that Wolves probably should have had three or four.
When analyzing Matheus Cunha’s brilliant athleticism, talkSPORT’s Jason Cundy even compared him to Thierry Henry. Cunha was a real handful as he dropped deep to use his pace and technical ability to cause all sorts of problems for Man United’s defenders.
Cunha will be eager to make up for this over the course of the season, but he lacks the finishing ability the legendary Arsenal player did. Cunha had a moment to forget as he fired a shot over the bar from close range.
Holes in Man United’s midfield
Manchester United has to work on strengthening their midfield given the abundance of elite options in the middle of the field.
Mason Mount, Bruno Fernandes, and Casemiro were the three midfielders that Ten Hag started with, but they found it difficult to keep up with the Wolves midfield’s relentless speed and running.
Scott McTominay and Christian Eriksen both came off the bench, but with Sofyan Amrabat being extensively linked to a transfer, it’s obvious that the Dutch head coach needs more stability in his engine room to get the club moving.
When discussing the need to strengthen the midfield as a commentator for Sky Sports, Gary Neville jokingly said: “To be honest, tonight I’m hoping that they go and sign [Moises] Caicedo and [Romeo] Lavia!”
Even though those transfers seem improbable at best, Man United will be eager to add a deep-lying option to the lineup in order to lay the groundwork for a club that can attack and defend effectively, and thereby genuinely contend for the title.
Same old VAR
Without some VAR controversy, the Premier League wouldn’t be the Premier League, would it?
When Pedro Neto’s cross caused mayhem for Man United’s defense in the ninth minute of stoppage time, new signing Onana collided with Sasa Kalajdzic.
Gary O’Neil, the manager of Wolves, received a booking after VAR arbitrarily determined that there had been no offense, but he doubled down on his criticism after the game, saying: “It looked like the goalkeeper tried to take the center-forward’s head off when it looked like live and when I watch it now it looks the same.”
“I’m shocked that there wasn’t a foul. It must be foul if you go for the ball and hit the player so forcefully. I’m not shocked that we missed getting it. He came over to book me when I thought he was going to the screen.
Later, O’Neil asserted that referee head Jon Moss had informed him that it was clearly and obviously wrong not to award the visitors a penalty kick.
A lack of potency in attack
Manchester United has shown flashes of their potential this season, but they will need a strong line leader.
Marcus Rashford led the team in scoring last season with 30 goals, although he did so by operating off the left flank rather than as a pure striker.Even though the Red Devils had 15 shots against Wolves, just three of them were successful, highlighting a potential issue for the team.
Ten Hag will be eager to see Rasmus Hojlund, who cost £72 million, have a significant influence this season as he searches for someone to lessen the team’s goal-scoring burden as they seek to push toward a potential Premier League title bid this season.