Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho says he expects more from his attacking players after they were held to a draw at Old Trafford by an impressive Wolves side.
Joao Moutinho’s superb strike saw the newly promoted visitors continue their strong start to life in the Premier League.
The Portuguese whipped in from the edge of the area as Nuno Espirito Santo’s team matched their hosts.
Wolves were lively in the first half and unlucky to go behind as Fred netted his first goal for United – the Brazilian firing in from just inside the box after Paul Pogba’s excellent touch.
And Mourinho said the visitors “were more aggressive, had more intent and were more motivated”.
“I think the result is fair. They deserved their point and we deserve the punishment of only getting one point,” the United boss told BBC Sport.
“The way we started we were lucky to be the first team to score. Their approach was more for a football match than ours.”
United, with former manager Sir Alex Ferguson watching on during his first visit to Old Trafford since having emergency brain surgery in May, were looking for a third straight league win.
The hosts were on top after the break, but Raul Jimenez’s clever lay-off set up Moutinho for what was a deserved equaliser for the visitors.
The draw keeps Wolves one point behind Manchester United in 10th, as Mourinho’s side climb to fifth.
A familiar Portuguese affair
The last time Wolves visited Manchester United in the Premier League, they fell to a 4-1 thrashing on their way to finishing bottom of the table. It was the same season Mourinho guided Real Madrid to a first La Liga title in four seasons.
Much has changed for both parties in the seven years since – Wolves dropping into League One before starting their ascent to the top flight and Mourinho making a title-winning return to former club Chelsea. But there was a sense of familiarity at Old Trafford as the well-acquainted Portuguese coaches took to either dugout.
Wolves boss Santo, Mourinho’s back-up goalkeeper for Porto from 2002 to 2004, regards his former manager as “a big inspiration” in his career, but he more than matched his mentor tactically as Wolves’ brand of quick, counter-attacking football caused the hosts problems.
Wolves were unlucky to head into half-time behind, with United goalkeeper David de Gea saving well from Willy Boly’s header having earlier parried a smart turn and shot from Jimenez.
The Championship winners have benefited from an influx of Portuguese stars under the influence of agent Jorge Mendes, who acts as an advisor to Wolves’ owners Fosun and also represents Mourinho.
And it was summer arrival Moutinho, with 113 Portugal caps to his name, who inspired the visitors’ fight back alongside his younger compatriot Ruben Neves in midfield.
Moutinho’s leveller was well deserved as Wolves became the first team this season to take points off both Manchester sides.
Fred on target as United’s attacking stars struggle
Mourinho made a point of saying Alexis Sanchez, rested for the Champions League trip to Young Boys on Wednesday, would start in place of Anthony Martial on Saturday, with Marcus Rashford suspended.
The Chile forward was consistently Arsenal’s best player before moving to Old Trafford in January, scoring almost a goal every other game in three and a half years with the Gunners. But he has struggled to replicate that form and is yet to find the net this season.
It was Sanchez’s cross that was headed away in the build-up to the opening goal, but the 29-year-old was replaced just after the hour mark after being well marshalled by the Wolves defence, while striker Romelu Lukaku failed to have a shot on target.
“I was expecting more from my attacking players. There was not enough creativity, movement or dynamism,” said Mourinho afterwards.
United’s attacking threat instead came from left-back Luke Shaw, midfielders Pogba and Fred and increasingly Marouane Fellaini, who saw a header saved by Wolves goalkeeper Rui Patricio.
Fred, a summer signing from Shakhtar Donetsk, took his goal well from Pogba’s brilliant assist and also forced Patricio into a diving save from a free-kick.
The hosts increased the pressure late on and were improved by the arrival of Martial and Juan Mata, but looked vulnerable on the break and had De Gea to thank for keeping out an effort from Wolves substitute Adama Traore.
Man of the match – Raul Jimenez (Wolves)
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho, speaking to BBC Sport: “They started better and were more aggressive, had more intent and I don’t know why but they were more motivated.
“We made it quite easy for them to cope with our supremacy in last 20 minutes. Overall we don’t deserve more than this.”
Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo: “It was a good game, two teams wanting to win, lots of chances and emotion. I thought it was a point deserved.
“We are growing game by game and getting a little better.”
Former Liverpool and Fulham midfielder Danny Murphy on Match of the Day: “The front three [of Watford] are a real threat. They will score more goals with a bit more care in the final third. They caused Manchester United all kinds of problems.
“Wolves are as accomplished a side I’ve ever seen from the Championship. They tired a bit towards the end but they deserved their point and probably a little bit more on the day. I was really impressed. I think they can finish in the top half. Teams are going to Old Trafford now without that fear factor. There are really positive signs for Wolves. Manchester United have had a difficult start but I can’t see them competing with Liverpool and Manchester City, I really can’t.”
Fred becomes United’s 500th scorer – the stats
- Manchester United have dropped six points from seven Premier League games at Old Trafford against newly promoted opposition under Jose Mourinho, more than in the 10 seasons beforehand [five].
- Wolves avoided defeat at Old Trafford for the first time since November 1980, stopping a run of eight successive losses in all competitions.
- Joao Moutinho’s goal was his first in 28 league games since netting against Paris St-Germain for Monaco in November 2017.
- Fred is the first Brazilian player to score a Premier League goal for Manchester United since Rafael against QPR in February 2013.
- He is also the 500th different player to score a competitive goal for United [not including own goals].
- Paul Pogba has been directly involved in six goals in his seven starts in all competitions for Mourinho’s side this season [four goals, two assists].