5 talking points as Rashford strike sees Man Utd go second at expense of Wolves

Marcus Rashford struck deep into added time to send Manchester United second in the Premier League with a 1-0 victory over Wolves.

The fixture seemed destined to end in a stalemate after two fairly uneventful halves at Old Trafford, but Rashford picked up Bruno Fernandes’ ball over the top and fired beyond Rui Patricio in the 93rd minute.

Fernandes had an excellent chance of his own to open the scoring in the first half, seeing his strike from close range repelled by Patricio.

And Romain Saiss went closest for the visitors as his effort following a set piece was parried away by David de Gea.

Here are five talking points from Old Trafford.

1. Solskjaer calls on Pogba

Pogba lacked the dynamism of Fred or McTominay

Speculation surrounding Paul Pogba’s future is reaching a fever pitch as he nears an Old Trafford exit next summer.

But the Frenchman found himself back in the starting line-up for the visit of Wolves after settling for a spot on the bench in Manchester United’s previous two outings.

Pogba formed a defensive midfield pivot with Nemanja Matic, as Fred and Scott McTominay dropped out of the line-up.

From the first whistle it was clear Pogba and Matic would be unable to match the dynamism of Fred and McTominay, while the duo took up increasingly deep positions as United’s attackers became ever more isolated.

Pogba was ponderous on the ball and produced the kind of laboured performance we have come to expect from him over the current season. It would be a surprise if he keeps his place for the clash with Aston Villa on Friday.

2. Telles hooked at half-time

Telles was taken off at half-time

It remains to be seen if Alex Telles was injured or whether it was a tactical change to replace him with Luke Shaw at half-time.

Many expected the Brazilian would make the left-back spot his own after his £15million arrival from Porto in October, but he has had to settle for sharing minutes with Shaw.

Telles’ delivery into the box from the left flank was good for much of the first half against Wolves, though he was often overlooked when running on the overlap and wasn’t given the chance to cross as much as he would have liked.

There was a moment after the half-hour mark when he went down after a stamp on the foot, which may have caused Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to withdraw him from the action.

Telles is yet to build up a head of steam for United after missing a number of games earlier in the season through coronavirus.

A half-time substitution was the latest twist in his mixed start to life at Old Trafford.

3. Wolves crying out for No. 9

Traore and co. are struggling to fill the void left by Jimenez

Nuno Espirito Santo has had to use his imagination to navigate the December fixtures in the absence of injured striker Raul Jimenez.

The Wolves boss has turned to the club’s young record-signing Fabio Silva, while Daniel Podence, Pedro Neto and Adama Traore have been used in a variety of attacking duos and trios.

But none of the combinations have worked to good effect and Wolves’ struggles in front of goal have persisted.

Nuno opted for a front two of Traore and Neto for the trip to Old Trafford, with the pair proving a handful for Manchester United’s defence – but a manageable one.

Wolves’ best chance of the match fell to Romain Saiss from a set piece, as the defender saw his flicked effort denied by David de Gea.

It was a performance which showed why only four teams have scored fewer than Wolves’ 15 Premier League goals this season – and one which explains why they are linked with strikers such as Real Madrid’s Luka Jovic in the January window.

4. Fernandes kept quiet – but not for long enough

Fernandes had an uncharacteristically quiet night

While Romain Saiss had Wolves’ best chance of the match, Bruno Fernandes had Manchester United’s.

The Portugal international latched on to Mason Greenwood’s cross in the six-yard box but his volleyed effort was repelled by Rui Patricio.

Ahead of the match, Fernandes had a truly remarkable tally of 10 goals and six assists in the Premier League this season and Wolves were well aware of the threat he poses.

The visitors benefitted from an extra body in midfield, allowing them to crowd out Fernandes and reducing his usual pinpoint through-balls and diagonals to some fairly aimless crosses.

But Wolves’ good work was undone in the dying minutes as Fernandes was given a split-second too long on the ball to pick out Rashford with a delightful pass over the top.

It marked yet another goal involvement for United’s talisman.

5. United go second

United dug deep to sink Wolves late on

In the last two days, league-leaders Liverpool dropped points at home to West Brom and Leicester were held to a draw by Crystal Palace.

Elsewhere, fellow top-four residents Everton saw their fixture with Manchester City on Monday called off.

The stage was set for Manchester United to seize the initiative as they bid to further establish themselves as title contenders.

And seize the initiative they did. It wasn’t a dominant performance or a particularly professional one, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men found a way to win.

The result piles pressure on Liverpool ahead of their trip to Newcastle on Wednesday.

As for Wolves, Nuno Espirito Santo’s men have been a beacon of consistency over the past two seasons but sit 12th in the league after their mixed first half of the campaign.

While United have ended the year on a high, Wolves will hope 2021 brings better form.

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