Manchester United’s journey in the FA Cup ended on Saturday as Wolves handed them a 2-1 defeat at Molineux to send Ole Gunnar Solskjaer & co. packing.
Right from the get-go, both sides appeared to be playing to their game plan. But, while Wolves looked devastating on the counter, Manchester United seemed to be lacking the bite in attack, failing to conjure up meaningful chances despite hogging much of the possession.
In fact, in spite of seeing very little of the ball, it was Wolves who created the biggest opening of the first half, with Diogo Jota forcing Sergio Romero into a fine save at the end of a fiery ccounter-attacking move. The first period, however, ended all square, although the screws were about to be turned post the interval.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s men continued to look the more dangerous of the two sides after the break, with Raul Jimenez drawing another superb stop from Romero early into the second half. But, the Manchester United resistance faded out completely 20 minutes before the end of regulation time, as Jimenez broke the deadlock with a brilliant snapshot that the United goalkeeper had no reply for.
With a quarter of the game left, the tie was put to bed as Jota finished off a swift ccounter-attacking move after staying strong against Luke Shaw. There was time for some controversy, however, as Victor Lindelof was shown a red card by referee Martin Atkinson before VAR corrected the decision to a yellow card booking.
Manchester United did pull a goal back, albeit in the final minute of injury time, by when it was too late to harbour hopes of a comeback. With the Red Devils being booted out of the FA Cup in the quarter-finals, The Hard Tackle assesses how Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men fared.
Sergio Romero: 7.5/10
The only reason why Manchester United were still in the tie with half an hour left. Romero showed great intelligence to come off his line to deny Diogo Jota any space to aim at, then produced another outstanding save to thwart Raul Jimenez early in the second half.
Could have done nothing to deny Jimenez for his goal, but he really should haveb guarded his near post better when Jota scored the winner. Still, Romero was the least of guilty party for Manchester United being beaten by Wolves on the night.
Diogo Dalot: 5/10
Starting as the right-back due to Ashley Young’s suspension, Dalot began brightly. But, when he was needed to produce the chances from the right flank, he seemed bereft of ideas. At the back, his space was covered well by Ander Herrera, but he ought to have done better to stop Joao Moutinho in the build-up to Jimenez’s goal.
Chris Smalling: 6.5/10
Quote easily the best outfield player for Manchester United on the night. In fact, Smalling was the only defender who was not at fault for either of the goals that his side conceded on the night, looking quite comfortable against the pace of Jota for the most part. Was surprisingly confident on the ball as well, as he took over the responsibility of building play from the back.
Victor Lindelof: 5/10
The standout defender for the Red Devils this season, Lindelof has usually been a reliable figure at the back. But, on Saturday, the Swede struggled considerably against the imposing presence of Jimenez, and was also at fault for allowing his marker too much space in the melee that ended with his goal.
Shown a red card late on by Martin Atkinson, but was lucky that VAR was available to bail him out. Nonetheless, this was an outing to forget for Lindelof, who will hope to improve the next time United face Wolves.
Luke Shaw: 6/10
Shaw, like Smalling, produced a largely accomplished performance on the defensive front, rarely being troubled by the dangerous Matt Doherty. On the other end, the Englishman posed a constant threat with his deliveries, and while he was unable to connect with his targets, he impressed with his intent to play early balls into the box.
But, just when he was about to notch up another solid outing in an impressive season, he ended up being too weak against the threat of Jota for the winner and ended up being flattened to the ground. A moment that he will hope to brush off.
Ander Herrera: 6/10
Back into the side after nearly a month out of action, Herrera fulfilled his defensive duties well for the most part, playing as an auxiliary right-back when Dalot bombed forward. On the ball, however, the Spaniard struggled to circumvent the Wolves midfield, lacking his usual incisiveness.
Also at fault for Jimenez’s goal, running into the same space as Dalot as Moutinho evaded them both. One of the decisions that Solskjaer got wrong on the night, as the energy of Fred or Andreas Pereira could have helped immensely.
Nemanja Matic: 5/10
Starting ahead of Scott McTominay despite a sub-par outing against Arsenal, Matic began well, keeping a check on Jimenez on the counter. Also appeared confident on the ball, gliding his way through the Wolves midfield a few times. But, after the initial spurt, the Serb faded spectacularly and was overrun several times in the middle of the park, which ultimately contributed to United plummeting in the end.
Paul Pogba: 4/10
Handed the captain’s armband, much was expected from the Manchester United talisman. While he was not lacking in terms of desire, his efforts did not realize the required dividends. That he was constantly fouled by the opposition players only added to his frustrations, which meant Pogba went missing for large parts instead of stepping up. Not expected from a player of his calibre.
Jesse Lingard: 5/10
Returning to the side after recovering from injury, Lingard looked bright in the initial exchanges. But it was evident that he was lacking the usual spring in his step and the rustiness impacted his output on the ball as well. Taken off for Juan Mata late on.
Marcus Rashford: 5/10
Rashford, for some reason, has not looked sharp enough in recent games, which could be chalked down to the run of games taking a toll on him. The only semblance of positive from his performance was the fact that he had the only shots on target from his side and grabbed the consolation goal. Needs to do much better, however, with his darting runs and intelligent movement nowhere to be seen of late.
Marcus Rashford’s last 3 games:
⚽️ vs. PSG
❌ vs. Arsenal
⚽️ vs. Wolves
Not at 100% but still finding the back of the net. 🎯 pic.twitter.com/CNbc51oTsi
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) March 16, 2019
Anthony Martial: 5/10
Another player who was back in the lineup after being fully fit. But, Martial, like the rest of his teammates in the final third, did not look likely to pose a threat at any stage of the game. Was too static when he did not have the ball and failed to provide any cover to Shaw as well. One of those games when there was nothing positive about Martial’s performance.
Andreas Pereira: 6/10
Pereira came on for Herrera and immediately showed where Solskjaer had missed the trick. But, despite his burst of energy, there was very little he could do to stop the free fall.
Juan Mata: N/A
On for Lingard late on, Mata did not have any time to arrest the slide and inspire Manchester United to get back to level terms.
Scott McTominay: N/A
The game was already lost by the time he was introduced.