Manchester United defeated Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-0 to kick off their 2023–24 Premier League season.
Raphael Varane’s vital header in the 76th minute gave Erik Ten Hag’s team the victory after extended stretches in which United was second best and it appeared to be a miserable night for the Red Devils.
The first notable chance came from Marcus Rashford in minute 11 at Old Trafford, but Wolves custodian Jose Sa made a fine save. However, as the first half went on, the Wolves gained confidence while the hosts battled with their muscular style. Pablo Sarabia had the greatest opportunity of the half when Matheus Cunha’s errant effort from the edge of the box was deflected wide by Raphael Varane.
Bruno Fernandes and Varane both had late chances for United, and Varane could have performed better after connecting with an out swinging corner just before halftime.
The second period started off more entertainingly, and in the 49th minute, Cunha had a chance to break the tie but missed the post from a very close range. After maneuvering through the United midfield, the former Atletico Madrid player tested Andre Onana from the edge of the box.
United had a chance to score as well; in minute 53, Antony floated the ball over Sa, forcing Craig Dawson to scramble back and head over the crossbar. After that, the custodian made a good save on a cross that Max Kilman deflected toward the goal, and a few minutes later, Antony curled over.
Pedro Neto attempted to score in minute 72, but Onana easily stopped him. It turned out to be a crucial time because United went ahead shortly after. The ball was knocked across the box by Aaron Wan-Bissaka after Fernandes’ superbly weighted pass found him in the box. Varane, of all persons, was there to meet the ball from a short distance away.
As the game approached its last ten minutes, Wolves pushed for an equalizer. Onana responded superbly with his feet to stop two close-range attempts from Fabio Silva, and Luke Shaw stopped the striker’s goal-bound attempt in the final seconds of regulation time.
Wolves were denied a late penalty when Onana collided with Sasa Kalajdzic, but a VAR check show how didn’t result in a spot-kick. United was clinging on at the end, and Hwang Hee-chan’s shot was stopped by Wan-Bissaka in the area, minutes before Wolves were hanging on.
These are our rankings of the United players.
1. Andre Onana- 7
Made two good late saves to keep out Silva, his best of the match. Was set to get 8/10 until his ill-judged flap at a cross should have resulted in a late Wolves penalty.
2. Aaron Wan-Bissaka- 7
Made one excellent tackle in the first half and provided the game-changing cross late in the second period. Wan-Bissaka was solid at the back.
3. Raphael Varane- 6
Not at his best but didn’t make any real defensive errors. The Frenchman was perfectly placed to head home for United in the 76th minute.
4. Lisandro Martinez- 5 (off 46)
Was needlessly booked and beaten easily seconds before Sarabia fired wide, in what was a subpar showing from United’s no.6. It’s not clear if Martinez was replaced at half-time due to the booking or an injury.
5. Luke Shaw- 6
Got down the line and offered Garnacho support, but the left-back couldn’t produce a decisive cross or pass.
6. Casemiro- 6
Played some nice diagonals out wide in the first half, but they became less frequent as the encounter continued.
7. Bruno Fernandes- 6
Tried to find a breakthrough moment, but had no joy until he picked out Wan-Bissaka for Varane’s goal. Fernandes was wasteful in possession against Wolves.
8. Mason Mount- 5 (off 68)
Lots of hustle and bustle, but little in the way of quality on the ball.
9. Antony- 5 (off 77)
Had a few bright moments on the ball, but didn’t produce much of danger in the final third. The Brazilian’s decision making was poor on several occasions.
10. Marcus Rashford- 4 (off 88)
Struggled to get involved and cut a frustrated figure for most of the game.
11. Alejandro Garnacho- 3 (off 68)
Handed a start above Jadon Sancho and didn’t live up to the pre-season hype. Garnacho’s decision making was poor and there was little end product.
12. Victor Lindelof- 5 (on 46)
Pulled out of the backline a few times and didn’t impress after his introduction.
13. Christian Eriksen- 6 (on 68)
Played some nice passes and helped United keep the ball.
14. Jadon Sancho- 7 (on 68)
Brought more energy after his introduction and should start next week after he helped guide United to the win.