CRAIG HICKEY LOOKS AT WOLVES DEFEAT TO MANCHESTER UNITED AND THE THINGS WE LEARNT
1.Sarabia IS a key player
Pablo has become an integral player within the first team since he came into the side in early December. He was missing through injury for the the FA Cup game against West Brom and in my opinion it was evident that his playmaking attributes were missed. He isn’t the ball winning midfielder that we see with Joao Gomes or Lemina, what he does possess is his quality passing in the final 3rd and a killer ball. He changed the game in many respects against United, finding space, dropping deep to gather the ball and playing decisive passes to Neto and Semedo in particular. I was surprised that he took the penalty to get us back in the game at 2-0 down, it should have been more but he galvanised the team and the fans with his work rate. My only criticism of him is that he can lose the ball in the centre of the park and his tackling can be lacklustre. If we overlook that area of his game for the positives he has when driving us forward as a counter attacking team, he is key for me with Cunha, Neto and even Hwang in our front line. If people underrate him, then a look at his movement and eye for a pass when he is playing, he may not have the attributes others have but he does possess that quality that PSG must have seen.
2. Jose Sa
This was a game that I think exposed Jose in a few ways, it’s a game that in some moments showed his flaws and some positives. If anyone was to look ordinary before the game, my bet was Onana, that wasn’t the case tonight. If we are going to mount a challenge for the European places (yep, it was looking promising), you need a good, confident and strong goalkeeper. Out of the two keepers on show in this game, Onana looked more comfortable and assured at times, although he took Max Kilman out in the area and nowt was given. When we talk about Sa, there’s always that niggling doubt when he has the ball at his feet, that aspect of his game was all too evident tonight. I can’t fault him for the first goal, a superb finish from Rashford or the winner from United, an even better finish. The 2nd went through his legs and the 3rd could have been better. What does worry me is his footwork, getting caught dwelling on the ball too many times during goal kicks, inaccurate kicking long and short. The biggest issue is his starting position and that nearly cost us a goal or even worse a red card for what appeared to us from the Steve Bull Upper, a hand ball 25 yards out as he tried to outwit Hojlund with some Kamikaze dribbling that should have resulted in the ball hitting row Z! I’m not convinced he will be a first choice come the summer and he may be at a new club then, it’s a shame as he’s a great guy but the coaches really have some work to do to ensure he improves between now and then.
3. A Never say die attitude
If we all needed proof that we are a side who never gives up, this game was one of those that proves we have the team spirit. I thought we were in for a good hiding after the fist 25 minutes, 2 – 0 down and two goals disallowed, so many close efforts and United were rampant. Two lads next to me left after 25 minutes (never to return), and I feared the worst. The second half brought about a few positives as we clawed our way back into the game through a penalty and then the 3rd goal came, here we go again. Then we got into the game more and pushed the United team deeper in search of a breakthrough, we got it and its 3-2, the crowd roared and so did the team, pushing to the end and getting that elusive equaliser in added time, only to be thwarted by a 4th United goal. If anything has come of this game, it’s the never say die attitude, a thriller for the neutrals but a bitter pill to swallow for the players, Gary O’Neil and us but you cannot fault the effort. If we can achieve these highs and efforts during games between now and the end of the season, we can all be proud of the team and we will be in a good place. Maybe we can cement our place in the top 10 and possibly climb higher which lets face it was a distant dream in August.
4. Gary O’Neil has made positive changes
There have been times for us as Wolves supporters where we have seen things happening on the pitch that need changing. We have all called for it and its never happened, until now, Gary O’Neil has changed so many things. We have seen instant impacts on games where players have gone off to be replaced and produced the goods within a half, if not sooner. If he see’s something that’s not working he will change the formation or tweak things slightly to change to possession or ease the pressure in certain areas. This was evident against Man Utd when he took off Doherty, Bellegarde and Toti, to be replaced by Sarabia, Ait Nouri and Gomes, they made a massive difference to our attacking threat. Tommy Doyle must have been tired too as he ran himself ragged all game. The second half definitely changed the game and allowed us to attack more, this is down to the Gaffer making those positive changes. In fact it’s been something that may have been overlooked by the watching fans in some sections but there are the signs that change can make a difference.
5. No Striker this side of the Summer
Finally, there will be no new faces up front until the summer, we’ve been linked with so many but nothing has materialised. We will need to rely on goals from all over the park and hope that Hwang Hee Chan comes back into the squad in form and injury free. That will be a boost for us as we’ve got on quite well without him since the new year. If we can keep in the top half of the table, perhaps we can attract the talent and goal scorer we need. There is plenty of competition but if this season has shown anything to our targets, its that we have a close knit group with some quality and we are moving in the right direction. The futures bright, the futures Gold and Black.
article by Craig hickey
A 53 year old season ticket holder in the Steve Bull stand. Go along with my two young lads who love the Wolves and so far, the positive times. Long may it continue.