A hard-fought 1-0 win is a good start for Erik ten Hag’s new-look side, but the ease with which Wolves cut through United’s midfield will be a concern for the remainder of the season.
Teams with greater quality in the forward areas than a relegation-battling opponent will punish Ten Hag’s side if given the same opportunity. United’s midfield was described as “non-existent” by Gary Neville in his post-match analysis.
Wolves had 23 shots on goal against United, the most by an away team at Old Trafford since 2005. Wolves completely dominated United’s midfield, resulting in a 1-0 victory.
Mason Mount – United’s new number seven, purchased at a high cost from rivals Chelsea – was at the heart of this weak midfield. A cost of up to £60 million is allocated for an essential member of a squad; Ten Hag will definitely have envisioned Mount as a crucial part of his midfield this season.
As a result, tonight’s performance, both in terms of Mount’s individual performance and the team’s collective ineffectiveness, will be cause for concern.
Mount demonstrated stereotypical zeal at times; he strove to demonstrate quick passing and swift pressing; and he occasionally displayed technical proficiency on the ball. Mount remained anonymous in both directions for the majority of his time on the pitch.
0 goals, 0 assists, 0 attempts, 0 shots, 0 successful dribbles, 0 important passes, 0 tackles, 0 clearances. These are hardly the stats of a £60 million midfielder brought in to help your team move from pretender to contender.
Mount struggled to have an impact on the game, often projecting an air of uncertainty – too high up the pitch to provide defensive solidity, too far away from the ball to regularly assist in offensive formation.
He was replaced by Christian Eriksen in the 68th minute after being withdrawn. Though Eriksen was not very brilliant, his strategic ball use was an immediate improvement over Mount’s bootless bustle.
However, players should never be written off after just one game. It is far too early to pass judgment on Mount as a player; a player with his track record in English football will produce far better performances for United than tonight’s.
The frailty of United’s midfield structure will be even more concerning. And Mount’s role in this, based on his profile.
On multiple times, Casemiro was isolated against a Wolves counter-attack. In the face of a sea of orange, the Brazilian looked every bit his thirty-one years, with Bruno Fernandes and Mount caught further up the pitch, unable or unable to assist. Tonight, United gave up possession 81 times (Sky Sports TV), giving Wolves 81 chances to counter-attack against a non-existent midfield.
Ten Hag makes a gutsy decision by using Casemiro as the lone pivot while Bruno and Mount push up the pitch to press the opposing defense. Based on United’s and Mount’s performances, it’s a decision that borders on stupidity.