Manchester United got their Premier League campaign off to the ideal start with a 1-0 victory over Wolves, but it was far from plain-sailing.
Raphael Varane’s second-half header was enough to claim the three points for Erik ten Hag’s side on a night that offered plenty of learnings of what was to come for both sides this season.
Here talkSPORT.com takes a look at the five things that we learned from the Monday night clash.
An impressive debut for Andre Onana
Manchester United’s new goalkeeper made his eagerly anticipated debut for the club and certainly didn’t disappoint.
On a largely flat night for the Red Devils, Onana was a rare bright spot as he showcased both his ability on the ball and crucially, his talent for keeping the ball out of the net.
The former Inter Milan star, who signed for £43.8million, made six saves over the course of the Premier League clash, two of them in quick succession to deny Fabio Silva and keep his side in control of the game.
He did endure one moment to forget late on as he burst out to try and punch Pedro Neto’s cross clear, only to wipe out Sasa Kalajdzic in the area.
Onana did get away with his clumsy challenge on this occasion, but we’ll get to that shortly.
Matheus Cunha is the real deal
Wolves have been tipped for a long, hard season in the Premier League but on the evidence of their clash at Old Trafford, they may just prove their doubters wrong.
Gary O’Neil’s side had 49 per cent possession against Man United with a staggering 23 shots to their name.
They might not have found the back of the net, but there’s no doubting that Wolves arguably could have had three or four.
One key bright spot was the performance of Matheus Cunha, who 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 – talkSPORT’s Jason Cundy even likening him to Thierry Henry when analysing Cunha’s brilliant athleticism.
Cunha doesn’t possess the finishing prowess the Arsenal legend had though having endured a moment to forget as he sent an effort over the bar from point-blank range, something that he’ll be keen to put right over the course of the season.
Holes in Man United’s midfield
Considering the number of top options in the middle of the park, Manchester United have some work do in strengthening their midfield.
Ten Hag started with Casemiro, Bruno Fernandes and Mason Mount in midfield, however that trio struggled to get to grips with the pace and tireless running of the Wolves midfield.
Christian Eriksen and Scott McTominay both came off the bench, but with Sofyan Amrabat heavily linked with a move, it’s clear that the Dutch head coach is looking for more solidity in his engine room in order to get the team ticking.
Speaking as a pundit for Sky Sports, Gary Neville reiterated the need to add to the midfield and joked: “To be honest, tonight I’m hoping that they go and sign [Moises] Caicedo and [Romeo] Lavia!”
While those moves look very unlikely at best, Man United will be desperate to add a deep-lying option to the squad in order to provide the foundations of a team who can both defend and attack and thus seriously challenge for the title.
Same old VAR
It wouldn’t be the Premier League without some VAR controversy, would it?
The incident happened in the ninth minute of stoppage-time when Pedro Neto’s cross wreaked havoc on Man United’s defence, leading new signing Onana to clatter into Sasa Kalajdzic.
With VAR somehow deciding that no offence had occurred, Wolves boss Gary O’Neil picked up a booking, but doubled down on his criticism post-match, saying: “It looked like the goalkeeper tried to take the centre-forward’s head off is what it looked like live and when I watch it now it looks the same.
“I’m really surprised it’s not a foul. If you go for the ball and clatter the player that hard it has to be foul. I’m not surprised we didn’t get it. I thought he was coming to the screen but he came over to book me.”
O’Neil later claimed that he’s been told by referees’ chief Jon Moss that a clear and obvious error was made not to give the visitors a spot-kick.
A lack of potency in attack
Manchester United showed glimpses of what they’re capable this season, but they’ll need someone who can lead the line effectively.
Marcus Rashford was the club’s top scorer with 30 goals last term, but got those efforts by playing off the left flank and not as an out-and-out striker.
While managing 15 shots against Wolves, just three of those efforts were on target, showing where the problem could be for the Red Devils.
Rasmus Hojlund, who signed for £72million, will be hoping to make a big impact this season, something that Ten Hag will be desperate to see as he looks to find someone to ease the goalscoring burden of the team as they aim to push towards a potential Premier League title challenge this term.
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