ilanaj

Half Mag / Half Zine

Even after Mason Greenwood snatched victory 10 minutes from time, there was only one name on the lips of the baying Manchester United supporters: Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side were dreadful in the first half and remained disjointed in the second but after withstanding swells of Wolves pressure, Greenwood rattled in his third goal of the season to extend United’s unbeaten start. Somehow, Wolves are pointless and goalless after three matches and this slender defeat was a particular travesty.

For Bruno Lage, it has been a mightily cruel induction to the Premier League, with his side overpowering and outwitting opponents, not for the first time this season, only to exit empty-handed. Wolves stretched the United defence time and again, while David de Gea made a preposterous double save to stop Romain Saïss from opening the scoring late on, before Greenwood drifted down the right flank and drove in, his shot squirming under José Sá. It was an imperfect performance all-round by the visitors, from a forgettable first start in a United shirt for Jadon Sancho to the vulnerability they again displayed in the middle of the pitch, but, ultimately, they won.

Greenwood has a knack for finding a route through – it was the teenager who levelled at Southampton – but Wolves will rewind his goal back a few seconds, to the moment Paul Pogba flew in on Rúben Neves under the nose of the referee Mike Dean. Pogba’s heavy touch led him to lunge for the ball and he appeared to catch Neves, though the Wolves midfielder did not immediately go to ground. “I didn’t touch him,” Pogba said. “This is the Premier League. It was a 50-50, every weekend that is happening.”

The stadium fell silent a few minutes before kick-off, when the public address system announced a very special guest would be making their way on to the pitch. For a split second or two, you could forgive the more giddy away supporters for wondering whether Ronaldo might appear.

In reality, the South Korea forward Hwang Hee-chan was introduced to the Wolves fans after arriving on a season’s loan from RB Leipzig.

The United supporters that filled the lower tier of the Steve Bull Stand sang Ronaldo’s name from start to finish but the only sign of the striker, who will report for international duty this week, was in the shape of a cardboard cutout cradled by one fan, while another waved a Portugal flag. Solskjær said the paperwork on Ronaldo’s £20m deal is being finalised. “Who?” joked De Gea when asked about the forward’s imminent arrival. “It is like a dream for all the Man United fans and for us to have him back it is going to be great.”

Solskjær had been criticised in some quarters for persisting with a double defensive pivot and while he loosened the shackles here, with Nemanja Matic among three players to drop out from the draw at Southampton, a ravenous Wolves side painfully exposed his midfield in a one-sided first half. Adama Traoré skipped between Pogba and Fred inside three minutes before racing upfield and releasing Raúl Jiménez, whose tame shot was kept out by De Gea. Traoré was having a field day, bouncing off challenges as if driving on the dodgems and the United debutant Raphaël Varane got a block in to deny Jiménez after being freed by the winger.

On the opposite flank Trincão caused Luke Shaw problems and the Wolves winger would have capitalised on a daredevil start by United, only for Aaron Wan-Bissaka to clear his arrowed shot off the line. Wolves stormed forward on the counterattack through Neves, encouraged to surge forward by Lage, and Trincão sped past Fred and into the box before Wan-Bissaka intervened at the last.

United’s first shot on target came after 40 minutes. Eight minutes into the second half, Solskjær introduced the current No 7, Edinson Cavani, in place of Daniel James. Jiménez crashed a header wide and then Trincão fluffed his lines, miscuing a shot after Traoré, slipped in by Jiménez, spotted the winger lurking unmarked by the penalty spot.

It was a golden chance and the omens were on United’s side when De Gea somehow prevented Saïss from opening the scoring with 21 minutes left. João Moutinho floated in a corner, which was superbly won by the indomitable Traoré and Saïss rose above Varane to head at goal.

De Gea pawed away the first attempt and then sprung to his left to get two hands to the second. Eventually Wolves would be punished for their profligacy, Greenwood powering in a low shot to smuggle victory.