No pressure, then, Rasmus Hooglund. The new Manchester United striker He sat in the directors box, while on his way back to full fitness, and got hard evidence of it Why did the club invest so much money in it. And why would there be such a high demand for him to deliver immediately when he plays.
So there is no pressure there on the £72m 20-year-old Dane who will do next. Lucky victory over the Great Wolvesbe more hopeful for a savior for a club that has had an unfortunate recent record of number 9 errors. And someone who has never played in the Premier League before.
Before the match, Sir Alex Ferguson pulled it off. “If they get the striker ready quickly, they’ll be a really good team,” he said, excited about the transformative impact Erik ten Hag has had. “Because that’s what they’ve really been missing, an attacking position, in the last few years.”
Not since, in fact, Ferguson surprisingly brought in Robin van Persie from Arsenal and claimed his 13th and final Premier League title, in his final season in 2012-13, United had the number 9. That number 9 could fulfill that role. No. 9 who looked and played the role.
They had Wayne Rooney, of course, but his real strength was working on another striker and he’s long gone. They have Marcus Rashford, who led the line against Wolves, but his best action comes from the wings rather than a goal through the middle. Apart from that, there have been a string of strikers who were either flattered to cheat or simply weren’t good enough or beyond their best: from Radamel Falcao to Romelu Lukaku to being forced to bring in a gap on loan at Woot. Weghorst that was the biggest indictment of all.
All that time they wanted, the one they really wanted, Harry Kane kept dribbling them and when he finally left Tottenham Hotspur It was for Bayern Munich. By that time, United had already invested in Hojlund. So he must be the one. No pressure there then.
United certainly felt the pressure on Wolves. If they wanted to bare their teeth in the opening round of matches, if they wanted to mark after playing in the last match between the Big Six, this was about as inefficient as it gets. Instead, the wolves showed their fangs and would still be in disbelief how they didn’t win.
They will be furious that they lost, not least for the failure of VAR Michael Salisbury to ask referee Simon Hooper to review an incident when goalkeeper Andre Onana finished off Max Kilmann in injury time. It should be a penalty. Instead, Wolves’ new manager Gary O’Neil was booked over his protest.
If it was a match that revealed United’s need for a striker, it also showed a significant lack of opportunities for one striker. It was a bad night for the Wings who started, and while there was more excuse for 19-year-old Alejandro Garnacho, Anthony’s performance was unnerving. They both looked rough. They both looked lost.
“I think we could have scored with five or six turnovers and there was an overload. Asked about his team’s lack of threat, the offensive line wasn’t at its best today and he could have come out of it better… he would come,” Ten Hag argued. Despite this, Anthony Martial remained on the bench.
Anthony is still Ten Hag’s most expensive contract signing, but he does precious nothing to justify it and had a face like thunder as he sat on the steps behind the coach after being properly substituted. It was only when changes were made with Christian Eriksen and Jadon Sancho that United improved.
Eriksen replaced Mason Mount, and while Ten Hag praised the midfielder’s performance, one of his most important signings, he was almost certainly aiming to cheer him on rather than accurately assess his performance. He too should do better.
The mountain was not alone. United’s midfield, in fact, with Casemiro struggling, has been overtaken by the strength and speed of Wolves and, in particular, Matheus Cunha who repeatedly cut his way and left them in his wake.
Wolves had the most shots – 23 – at Old Trafford by an away team since 2005, but somehow didn’t score with it being the most missed as he hit off the post early in the second half. “We had some great chances but we somehow found a way not to put the ball in the net,” said O’Neill wistfully.
And so United were relying on a midfield to get the only goal from what was, in fact, their only real chance. This is simply not good enough.
The goal came against the run of play, after Wolves cut in again, with United reacting and Bruno Fernandes playing a clever pass into the area. Aaron Wan-Bissaka met her and hooked her across the face of goal for Varane to head home.
Relief flooded around Old Trafford and revealed just how poorly the team had performed up to that point. After the goal it got even more desperate as the Wolves tried to fight back. The shortcomings, despite the positivity of Ten Hag, were all too obvious. And again, it starts with that desperate need to turn around. The question is – will it be Hojlund?