Manchester United traveled to Molineux Stadium to take on Wolverhampton Wanderers in the final match of last weekend’s Premier League action. Wolves finished in 7th place last season and qualified for the Europa League thanks in large part to their stellar record against the Premier League’s ‘Big 6’ so their clash against United, who finished just one spot ahead of them in 6th, promised to be a cracker.
At the end of the match honors were even between the two sides after battling to a 1-1 draw. Anthony Martial opened the scoring for the visitors on 27th minutes before Wolves midfielder Ruben Neves leveled things in the 55th minute with a stunning strike from outside the box. The match was not without its drama however as Paul Pogba missed a penalty and the chance to give United all 3 points when he saw his efforts saved by Rui Patricio with 20 minutes left in the match.
Under normal circumstances, a player missing a penalty wouldn’t be front pages; these things happen all the time. However at Manchester United, things are never quite normal and Pogba, who, deservedly or not, is the recipient of regular criticism from the English media, taking a penalty off of Marcus Rashford, a media darling who converted a penalty the week before, and missing became the top footballing story for an entire news cycle.
United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer tried to calm the media frenzy by backing Pogba and explaining that he acted according to his wishes as both Pogba and Rashford are the side’s penalty takers.
“The two of them [Rashford and Pogba] are designated penalty shooters and it’s up to them there and then who feels like ‘this is mine’. Marcus scored a goal and I’m sure this week he would have loved to but Paul was confident and I like players with confidence and the feeling of ‘I can do this’”.
Unfortunately for Solskjaer, his well-intentioned comment backfired as many pundits and ex-players slammed his indecision and inability to make a simple decision like designating one penalty taker. The United boss backtracked a few days later and said that would choose a single penalty taker going forward.
Aside from the penalty debacle, there were a lot of positives to take away from the match from a United perspective, which Solskjaer explained earlier this week.
“We dominated possession. We got the first goal, which is a great goal, then second half we know they’re going to come out like a house on fire and they got the goal they deserved for the pressure they had. Then I thought we took control again and could’ve won it”.
United played good football against Wolves and were unlucky to not come away with more. Taking a step back however, a draw away to Wolves who are notoriously stingy against quality opposition is not a bad result by any means and with their 4-0 victory over Chelsea on opening day, United have started the new season stronger than expected. Now the Red Devils turn their attention to a home match against Crystal Palace that they’ll enter as heavy favorites.