Wolves fans travelled to Old Trafford yesterday with a belief there was something in this game for their team, and that confidence proved not to be misplaced. A draw was the final outcome but that was the least they deserved as they were the better team for large parts of the game. It was a result and performance that demonstrated not only that they are a team in the this League on merit but one that can achieve a top half finish that will be a first for Wolves in the Premier League.
Wolves took the game to United from the word go and could easily have established an early three-goal lead. A fantastic 70-yard ball from Neves set Costa up on the right. He beat Shaw on the outside before cutting the ball back from the byeline to Jiminez who hit a shot on the turn that De Gea turned away with his legs. And from a corner, it was Bennett who sent in a header only just over the bar. Then from another Moutinho corner, Boly sent in a header that bought an excellent block from De Gea who got up in time to save a second header from Ryan Bennett.
It was completely against the run of play when United went ahead with their first sustained attack. A sublime flick from Pogba set up Fred just inside the Wolves area and his shot was well placed in the corner giving Patricio no chance. United were lifted by the goal and controlled possession in their best spell of the game. But they were creating little until on the stroke of half-time a Fred free-kick brought a brilliant save out of Patricio.
Wolves started the second half as brightly as they had the first and deservedly equalised 8 minutes in. Good work from Costa before he sent in a low cross which Jiminez laid back to Moutinho who curled the ball into the top corner from the edge of the box. Wolves were pushing United back now with Jimenez, Costa and Jota all causing problems and Costa hit a shot just over and Jota played a one-two with Costa but was just foiled by the final tackle. United were having their share of the ball with Pogba the centre of everything they did, but the Wolves defence were holding firm. Jota brought a good save from De Gea, then Lingard also tested Patricio with the game going end to end.
Traore replaced Costa for the final 15 minutes, then Saiss replaces Moutinho and is detailed to mark Fellaini who had now been thrown forward by United. The pressure from United was growing and with the ball bouncing around dangerously in the area and with Lukaku ready to pounce, Willy Boly stepped in to imperiously dribble the ball out of defence and clear. Wolves looked to be hanging on now but they suddenly release Traore and he runs at the defence and hits a shot at the near post that De Gea did well to keep out with his feet. And that pattern continues to the end with United pressing but Wolves using Traore as the outlet and he had two more shots on goal in injury time.
Patricio 8 – no chance with the goal and made two excellent saves and cut out some dangerous crosses.
Bennett 7 – another steady reliable performance.
Coady 7 – stood up to the challenge of Lukaku excellently and the striker never threatened to score.
Boly 7 – starting to look as effective in the top flight as he was in the Championship.
Doherty 7 – continues to impress at this level both defensively and going forward.
Neves 8 – some exquisite passes and won his share of tackles.
Moutinho 7 – the £5m bargain of the season took his goal superbly and had another fine game.
Castro 7 – proving to be another in a long line of excellent signings.
Costa 8 – had the beating of Shaw and his final delivery caused plenty of concerns for the home defence.
Jimenez 9 – led the line superbly, close to getting another goal and set up the equaliser.
Jota 7 – hesitant in the first half but the second half was his best of the season so far.
Traore – the ideal impact sub and had three shots in his short time on, with the first one only just kept out by De Gea.
This season is living up to all the expectations in Wolves return to the top flight and they were more than a match for one of the better teams here. Who knows how the remaining 32 league games will go, but in the first six Wolves have looked every inch a top half team. Two games at Molineux coming up with a Carabao Cup game on Tuesday giving some of the squad players a chance to impress. Then next Saturday a league game against Southampton where the aim will be for three more points to consolidate their promising position in what, after all those years languishing out of the top flight, is already feeling like a season to remember.