In a largely uneventful and predictably average United performance, the Reds were able to advance to the 4th round of the FA Cup via a 1-0 win against Premier League rivals Wolves. Coming off the heels of a sparkling 4-nil win against Norwich, United were able to find the space required to break down a well organized Wolves side and put together back-to-back wins at Old Trafford. Here’s how each player performed:
Manager: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – 3
A head scratching full XI (minus Rashford) from Ole in a game that if we had lost, could arguably end up benefiting us in the long run. The injuries are consistent and the progressive fatigue is clearly beginning to take its toll on the squad. There is a clear relationship between games played and quality of play. We see it every year during the festive period. To understand the starting XI, you have to think that Ole is managing for his job and believes that only a trophy will save him from the axe.
Our ethos as a club is that we should be competing on all fronts…when we are at our best. The reality is we are not and do not have the talent or depth to be competing in multiple competitions. FA Cup games right now should be used as rest for our starters – especially with Anfield at the weekend. Ole also brought on Rashford in the 64th minute only for him to be taken off injured in the 80th, a move that could end up costing the manager in the long run.
GK: Sergio Romero – 7
Made a solid save down low early on from Raul Jimenez but was unbothered most of the evening.
RB: Aaron Wan-Bissaka 7
Handed the tough task of defending Adama Traore and stood up like the world class defender he is. Beaten for pace only once and made countless tackles from good positions, as well as in recovery. Perhaps due to self-confidence, he still fails to show the will to attack that we expect from a United full-back. AWB also lacks a strong left-foot and opposing teams have taken notice – he is attracting the “Antonio Valencia” style of defending where he is being forced into cutting back on his right only.
CB: Victor Lindelof – 7
Defended better in the air than usual. Looked more confident and stronger going into aerial duels. Delivered several line-breaking passes early on, as well as a great long ball into Greenwood. Faded as the game went on.
CB: Harry Maguire – 6
Average performance from our Captain. Strong in the air as to be expected but beaten twice for pace by Adama and Neto and also let a ball run through to Romero that should have been cleared. Saved by Romero on two occasions and gave away a silly yellow card in a dangerous area late on.
LB: Brandon Williams – 8
The young left-back was brilliant tonight. Handled Adama and Neto whenever thrown at him, while also getting forward and showing the desire that we all wish Luke Shaw would show. 86% passing accuracy, 6/7 duels won, 3 clearances and 2 interceptions. 6 out of Williams’ last 7 appearances have been clean sheets. Also delivered a clever entry pass to Daniel James who had his effort saved. A promising academy product that we hope will be a rock at the back for years to come and clearly our first choice left-back at the moment.
CDM: Fred – 5
Looked sluggish and how can you blame him. In a midfield devoid of bodies, Fred has been a huge piece for us regardless of sub-par performances. Gave away several bad fouls and was sloppy in possession. Took a needless yellow card and could have easily picked up a second. Hit his own teammate with a pass right outside the box that led to a goal only for it to be overturned by VAR.
CDM: Nemanja Matic – 8
Playing Matic only on minimal rest is showing that he still has a bit left in the tank under the right circumstances. Looked lively and energetic compared to last season. Tracked back with energy, connected passes to the front line and pressed more than he has in 18 months. However, perhaps Ole should have opted for a different midfielder and saved Matic for Liverpool on Sunday?
CAM: Mason Greenwood – 5
Not the night for our Starboy. Was largely invisible for the hour that he was on. Cushioned a beautiful long ball by Lindelof into Martial’s path early on only for the chance to be wasted. Hauled off in the 64th minute for Andreas Pereira.
CAM: Juan Mata – 8
Man of the Match Performance from the Spaniard. Found more time and space than usual and was able to capitalize in the #10 role. Constantly moving and making great runs and passes. Excellent first touch to release him for the goal and a class dink over the goalie for the winner.
CAM: Daniel James – 5
You can never accuse Dan James of giving anything less than 110% for the badge. Unfortunately, the end product wasn’t there against Wolves. Poor finishing with a couple of big misses. Needs work on the final ball if he is going to be a starting winger for Manchester United.
FW: Anthony Martial – 7
Wasted two opportunities but worked hard to be in good positions. Dropped deep and drew a defender with him, turned beautifully and put Mata through for the winner.
SUB: Andreas Pereira – 4
A classic Andreas performance. Lost possession with his first two touches and failed to run back to make up for his error. Not up to the pace or physicality of Premier League football and his continued appearances highlight the lack of options at Ole’s disposal.
SUB: Rashford – 6
Nutmegged an opponent and brought energy and fear to the side. Went 1-0 three minutes after his inclusion in the game but was taken off in the 80th minute with an apparent back injury after a tough tackle from Doherty. Needless to say, but Rashford probably should not have been playing tonight. Ole has admitted that he is carrying a few knocks and tonight was the perfect chance to rest him. Pogba and Rashford injuries have been arguably mismanaged by Ole.
SUB: Lingard – 5
Came on for Rashford and did not have time to make an impact. Should be noted though that he was not ready when called upon by Ole and Wolves kept the ball in play for 3-4 minutes while United were essentially a man down with Rashford hobbling. His United career looks all but over.