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Man United vs. Wolves result & highlights: Ronaldo captains team, but Red Devils are poor in loss

A stiff and sulky performance by Manchester United was ultimately punished late as Joao Moutinho’s goal pushed a plucky Wolves to a famous win at Old Trafford and piled pressure on interim coach Ralf Rangnick.

Despite an unbeaten start to his Premier League tenure with the Red Devils, Rangnick had received criticism for his team’s confusing tactics and spotty performances. That was on full display as Rangnick left playmaker Bruno Fernandes on the bench and United was stagnant throughout. 

Wolves finished the first half with 15 total shots, the most for any visiting team at Old Trafford ever in a first half, despite Wolves’ well-known inability to score. While it remained 0-0 at halftime, changes were required, and eventually Rangnick changed formation and brought on Fernandes with a half-hour to go, changing the feel of the game and injecting some life into the home side.

MORE: Ronaldo pats self on back, demands Man United work harder

Eventually, however, United would break as Moutinho collected a Phil Jones clearance and deposited it into the back of the net to confirm Wolves’ first league win at Old Trafford since 1980. Rangnick will have plenty to answer for, seeming to prefer his own tactics to those that fit the players at his disposal.

“We didn’t play well at all, neither individually nor collectively,” Rangnick said postgame. “Today we have to admit they were better than us.”

“We didn’t press at all. We tried after 10-15 minutes, but we were not able to get into those pressing situations,” Rangnick said when asked about his trademark pressing game, also citing the difficulty created by Wolves’ five midfielders, which included two wingbacks.

“The game showed that we still have a lot of work to do and we still have to take quite a few steps both collectively and individually, especially against the ball. But also in the first half, when we were in possession of the ball, we had again too many unforced errors, too many giveaways and in those parts of the game we just need to get better.”

Man United vs. Wolves final score

 1H2HFinal
Man United  0  0 0
Wolves  0  1 1

Goals:
WOL — Joao Moutinho — 82nd min.

(All times Eastern)

Final: Manchester United 0, Wolves 1

Bruno Fernandes injected some life into the match, hitting the bar minutes after coming on and forcing a late save, but it’s all for naught. United is punished for a miserable first half and negative tactics overall. It’s a typical Wolves performance, good value for their defending and just enough up front. Rangnick will need to think about finding a way in for Fernandes and Sancho, without forcing a square peg into a round hole. A time of reckoning is coming for United.

95th min.: With one last chance, United have a free kick just outside the area thanks to a high boot by Silva to the face of Phil Jones. Fernandes has taken the ball off Ronaldo, and his venemous free kick is saved expertly by ‘keeper Jose Sa. The final whistle blows straight after.

88th min.: United has had little response since the goal. Traore cut down by Shaw, who’s still going in hard despite being on a yellow.

Wolves withdraw Daniel Podence for Leander Dendoncker looking to shut up shop. Podence was lively and defended well too. Solid performance.

82nd min.: GOAL! Wolves! Adama Traore cut in a cross, and while Jones clears initially, Joao Moutinho controls at the top of the box and delivers a low strike through Scott McTominay’s wickets and into the back of the net. Wolves are minutes away from a deserved victory at Old Trafford.

81st min.: Raul Jimenez very slowly walks off, replaced by Fabio Silva. Understandably, no urgency from the Mexican international.

77th min.: Jadon Sancho now makes way as Ralf Rangnick brings on Marcus Rashford. Sancho was invisible all match, although he’s not exactly been given the freedom to be his most dangerous self on the pitch. He was stuck in a true winger role in the rigid 4-4-2 before being moved to wingback.

75th min.: Adama Traore slices up the United midfield on the counter, and Nemanja Matic has to absorb a yellow card to stop the chance, cutting Traore right before he enters the penalty area. The free kick is a vicious one from Romain Saiss but it’s hammered off the bar. It’s Wolves’ first attack in a while.

Old Trafford is enjoying Manchester United’s newfound spark, but they’re not terribly creative about it.

69th min.: And Ronaldo puts another effort wide, on a breakaway chance thanks to a wonderful Fernandes delivery. Ronaldo displays his surrender cobra, borne of frustration. A mystery why Bruno Fernandes was dropped from the starting lineup for this match, United has awoken once he arrived.

Now they earn a corner, their first of the match. The crowd applauds, maybe in genuine appreciation, but probably with a touch of sarcasm.

68th min.: Now Ronaldo has the ball in the back of the net, heading in off a free kick delivery, but he’s very offside and the flag confirms his infraction. United may be finally taking control.

67th min.: WAKE UP EVERYONE! WE HAVE A BIG CHANCE! In the first true test of the nets, Bruno Fernandes clatters a shot off the crossbar. Truthfully, it should be 1-0. It came off a fabulous cut cross from near the corner flag by Matic, and Fernandes is all alone by the penalty spot. He whips his foot at it one-time, and it should be in the back of the net.

65th min.: As Wolves proceed to take their eighth corner of the match to Man United’s zero, Old Trafford hears those terrifying four words: “Adama Traore coming on.” He replaces Trincao who was very lively. Man United defender Luke Shaw is on a yellow. Look out.

60th min.: Bruno Fernandes comes on, replacing Mason Greenwood, which isn’t a popular move around Old Trafford, but it appears the youngster may have taken a knock just before the substitution. 

It’s not very clear what the tactical setup is right now. Hard to tell if the players know either, as Ronaldo is gesturing dramatically at left wingback Jadon Sancho while the ball goes out for a throw.

57th min.: Luke Shaw booked for barging over Trincao, and he will miss the next match due to yellow card accumulation.

Looks like Bruno Fernandes will come on. Still not sure where he plays in the 3-4-3, but we will see.

55th min.: Aaron Wan-Bissaka mis-hits a cross, embarrassingly. Down the other end, Max Kilman looks to show his opposing fullback how it’s done with a charge forward, but he slips and loses the ball, embarrassingly.

A microcosm of this game.

49th min.: Scott McTominay booked for absolutely barging over Daniel Podence. Clear yellow, no arguing that.

United appears to have changed up the system, thankfully. It’s a big change, to a 3-4-3. Cavani and Greenwood supporting Ronaldo in the middle. At the back, it’s Varane, Jones, and Shaw at central defender with Wan-Bissaka and Sancho at wingback.

46th min.: The second half is underway, no substitutions for either side. Jadon Sancho has the first chance of the second half, but instead of taking it himself, he looks to pick out Ronaldo and it fails. The commentary crew urges Sancho to be more selfish. Can’t imagine Ronaldo would feel the same.

Halftime: Manchester United 0, Wolves 0

First half xG: 0.21 – 0.74. What a putrid 45 minutes.

For Wolves — clearly the better side over the half — the failures in the attacking third have Bruno Lage visibly frustrated on the touchline. They’ve done quite well to hold possession, recycle, and build into the final third, but there it all falls apart.

For United, the Ralf Rangnick 4-4-2 just is not working. The Red Devils cannot maintain any semblance of prolonged attacking possession, they are horrible in the build-up, and the two strikers up front are completely isolated. Bruno Fernandes has no spot in this antiquated formation, and Jadon Sancho is stuck in a role he’s not made to play, unable to contribute.

It’s time for Rangnick to mold his tactics to the players he has available, not the other way around.

44th min.: An absolute snoozer of a first half mercifully ending soon. United losing the ball, Wolves recycling possession, Wolves build up, Wolves fail in final third, United collect ball, United midfield giveaway. Rinse, repeat.

Trincao, who has been bright, comes close to meeting a cross but it’s just out of his reach.

35th min.: It’s the best chance of the match, but a wide-open Raul Jimenez misses a header on the doorstep. He was well offside anyways, so despite the miss, the flag goes up. Wolves very close.

The chance, hilariously, started with Ronaldo inexplicably trying to head it back to De Gea, but instead giving it right to Wolves in the attacking third. De Gea, rightly so, lights up Ronaldo for trying that.

34th min.: Phil Jones snatches back possession in the attacking third and the crowd goes bonkers. The chance comes to nothing as Greenwood tries to meander through the trees in the penalty area.

The crowd’s reaction speaks as much to how bland this game has been as it does their affection for the defender.

29th min.: Wolves again kill about 10 minutes with slow and sleepy possession before United pops up again, through the same attack as last, and with the same result, as a Wan-Bissaka cross goes over the head of a rising Ronaldo.

A problem for Wolves here as Ruben Neves is down for treatment, looks like McTominay caught him slightly. He’s a very important player.

20th min.: Old Trafford begins to feel the pressure, and the fans come to life. The team immediately responds and produces its first attack through, of all people, Aaron Wan-Bissaka. The defensive-minded right back whips in a cross, and Cristiano Ronaldo rises very high in an attempt to meet it, but the ball sails just over his head.

17th min.: If we’re being honest, it feels like Man United has yet to show up. Wolves have taken seven shots to United’s one, although most of the visitors’ efforts have been from well outside the box. They only have a combined 0.22 xG for those seven rips. United has wasted possession after possession.

Nelson Semedo takes shot number eight for Wolves, forcing another De Gea save from a tight angle on the right.

12th min.: Daniel Podence forces a save from David de Gea from a tight angle, but the Spaniard was well-positioned. The ensuing corner nearly saw Ruben Neves unleash a Kovacic-like volley from miles away, but again De Gea was there to keep it out.

8th min.: An absolutely outlandish pass from Mason Greenwood springs a break for Manchester United, but it comes to nothing. Take nothing away from the pass, which saw Greenwood — pinned in near the top corner of his own box and facing his own net — whip his body around and deliver a 40-yard feed to spring Jadon Sancho on the opposite flank. My goodness.

5th min.: Wolves have had the brighter start early on, holding 70 percent possession in the opening five minutes. A few warning signs for United from the get-go, and a corner to Wolves.

1st min.: We’re underway at Old Trafford, with a massive applause for Phil Jones in his return. The 29-year-old is a massively popular player not just among Man United fans, but around England.

12:20 p.m.: Hammer the under

12:15 p.m.: Can Cristiano Ronaldo be the leader United needs?

11:55 a.m.: Lineups are in, confirming Phil Jones gets his first league start in two years. The manager sang his praises, as did the media.

Man United vs. Wolves lineups

Man United manager Ralf Rangnick has taken the bold step of dropping Bruno Fernandes , who missed the last match due to suspension, but only returns to the bench. There seems to be no place for the natural No. 10 in Rangnick’s rigid 4-4-2 formation.

The match is also the first start for Phil Jones since 2020, with Harry Maguire missing due to injury.

Man United starting lineup (4-4-2): De Gea (GK) — Shaw, Jones, Varane, Wan-Bissaka — Greenwood, Matic, McTominay, Sancho — Ronaldo, Cavani.

Man United subs (9):  Henderson (GK), Telles, Dalot, Elanga, Van de Beek, Fred, Lingard, Fernandes, Rashford.

Bruno Lage makes only two changes from the draw with Chelsea, as Francisco Trincao and Nelson Semedo come into the side. 

Wolves starting lineup (4-4-2): Jose Sa (GK) — Kilman, Coady, Saiss — Marcal, Neves, Moutinho, Trincao, Semedo — Jimenez, Podence.

Wolves subs (9):  Ruddy (GK), Hoever, Alt-Nouri, Jordao, Silva, Dendoncker, Traore, Cundle, Bueno.

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How to watch Man United vs. Wolves

  • Date: Monday, Jan. 3
  • Time: 12:30 p.m. ET
  • TV Channel: USA Network
  • Spanish-language TV: Universo
  • Streaming: fuboTV, NBCSports.com (authenticated users)

The match from Old Trafford will be broadcast on USA Network (English) and Universo (Spanish) and both channels can be streamed on fuboTV , which is available to new users on a free 7-day trial .

Subscribers to cable, satellite or telco packages can also watch on NBCSports.com with authentication.

MORE: What happened to NBCSN? Where to watch Premier League in USA

Man United vs. Wolves betting lines & odds

Odds courtesy of DraftKings

  • Moneyline : Man United -150 / Draw +950 / Wolves +450
  • Spread : Man United -0.5 (-150) / Wolves +0.5 (+130)
  • O/U 2.5 total goals : Over +120 / Under -145
  • Both teams to score : Yes +105 / No -135



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