The best is often saved for last. Alejandro Garnacho was the final name announced over the stadium PA system ahead of Manchester United’s opening game of the season against Wolves and the crowd duly responded with a roar.

Garnacho wants to be the best and he reacted by raising a smile before slotting the ball into the net as part of the pre-match shooting drill. He also returned to the dressing room to a chorus of ‘Viva Garnacho’ from the Stretford End.

This game was a chance for Garnacho to prove he could impact a Premier League game across its entirety and he started in exuberant fashion, asking for the ball each time possession was won across the first few minutes.

Garnacho has a tendency to be excitable when he starts and was exactly that throughout the opening stages, which led to him losing the ball and a simple pass from Casemiro towards the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand.

It was a rocky start for the 19-year-old and he wasn’t the only player struggling under the floodlights, as Wolves looked the better side in the opening exchanges and created decent opportunities for Pablo Sarabia and Matheus Cunha.

Andre Onana had Sarabia’s shot covered but he looked beaten for Cunha’s effort from the right. Old Trafford breathed a collective sigh of relief, while the travelling support, who were growing in optimism over the chances of getting a result, applauded.

Those missed chances seemed to be a wake-up call for United and they grew into the game as the first half progressed, but the final ball around Wolves’ box was ultimately lacking and the midfield was struggling to assert control.

Although Garnacho was trying to create whenever receiving the ball, his attempt at step-overs before taking a heavy touch just before half-time summarised the team’s performance and Erik ten Hag was bound to have words at the break.

Ten Hag needed his experienced players to step up and they eventually did. This was supposed to be a night for a young Garnacho to seize his chance, but it was the senior members in the squad who began to make the difference.

Casemiro was the most impressive of the starting midfield three in the first 45 minutes and he picked up where he left off after half-time, making crucial interventions and funneling up the pitch when pressure needed to be relieved.

Despite being in the autumn of his career, the Brazilian remains one of the best defensive midfielders in the world and the social media chatter in pre-season from the minority about the ‘need’ to replace him was always laughable.

Mason Mount, who was replaced with just over 20 minutes to go, and Bruno Fernandes were off the pace, but Casemiro kept the team ticking and he was perhaps the standout performer, alongside Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

There was a pre-match debate about whether Wan-Bissaka should start. There won’t be before the Tottenham match at the weekend because the right-back was excellent against Wolves, in both defensive and attacking scenarios.

Wan-Bissaka made a strong start to the game and that set the tone. He made Cunha look foolish when stylishly recovering the ball in the first half and his night eventually got better as he assisted the matchwinner.

After roaming down the right flank, Wan-Bissaka flicked the ball onto Raphael Varane with a lofted cross and Wolves’ defence was finally breached, with the Frenchman heading home past a helpless Jose Sa in between the sticks.

Varane wildly celebrated at the Stretford End and a member of security staff from the club punched the air. Varane rarely scores and he certainly enjoyed his goal, which looked set to be enough for the three points.

That was until Andre Onana collided with Max Kilman in added time. It looked to be a clear penalty and VAR checked, but the spot kick bizarrely wasn’t given, which led to a furious protest from Wolves’ manager Gary O’Neil.

United survived the penalty appeal and earned their 21st opening-day win of the Premier League era. It was not a vintage performance and Varane, Wan-Bissaka and Casemiro would have been thanked by others at full-time.

Those players delivered on a frustrating night for United and they’re guaranteed to start against Spurs.

About The Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *