By Ian Whittel
Paul Pogba and Jose Mourinho appear to have disagreed in a number of key areas this season, as their fragile relationship has been left open to speculation, but on Saturday, at least, they were in complete agreement.
Manchester United’s lacklustre draw with newly promoted, but impressive, Wolves had the manager questioning his team’s attitude and suggesting he had been happier on their last home appearance, the 3-0 defeat to Tottenham.
Pogba, brilliant with his role in United’s goal and at fault for the Wolves equaliser early in the second half, agreed with his manager’s assessment about a lack of desire on the part of him and his team-mates.
Pogba also believed that it was a lack of attacking desire from United that proved their undoing on another disappointing afternoon for Mourinho and his team.
“Yeah, it’s true that maybe we should have showed more hunger in some parts,” said Pogba.
“Maybe as well we felt a bit of fatigue, because we played Champions League.
“We are at home and we should play much better against Wolves. When we are at home we should attack, attack, attack. That’s Old Trafford.
“We didn’t lose, but for me we should have won. We are at home, they are three points that we should get. I don’t know how many games we’ve had at home — three — and we’ve got only four points. It’s not enough.”
Indeed, United may stand within three points of the top four and Champions League places, but alarmingly, just half a dozen games into the campaign, they already find themselves eight points behind top spot.
More importantly, after three solid away wins to start the month of September, this setback was a real momentum killer, the chance to put behind them that Spurs defeat and an unconvincing opening day win over Leicester.
“I don’t know how to respond to this. I wish I could,” said Pogba, when asked if he felt his side had taken a backwards step.
It had started well enough for United, with Pogba’s magnificent control and delicate touch opening a gap for Fred to deposit his first goal for the club after 18 minutes.
However, just seven minutes into the second half, Wolves were deservedly level through Joao Moutinho’s terrific blast from the edge of the area after neat approach play, and desperate United defending, had carved out the opportunity.
Crucially, in the build-up to the goal, Pogba lost the ball in midfield, leaving his defenders exposed to a swift counter-attack and, while the French international clearly felt he was limited by the tactical options in front of him, he was not about to criticise his manager’s approach.
“We were playing higher and I think that’s how we conceded the goal. I know I lost the ball,” said Pogba.
“Then a few more mistakes and not a lot of movement in front, because we didn’t really put them in trouble, but I’m not the manager, I cannot say that, but obviously we should show more options of playing. But I cannot say that, because I’m a player. That’s my way of thinking: We should move better, we should move more, yeah.”
The mood around the Wolves camp could hardly have offered a greater contrast. Two wins from their opening six games might not sound a sensational start to the campaign, but their only defeat has come at Leicester on the second weekend of the season and following successive victories with this kind of performance was impressive.
One of their 10 Portuguese squad members, midfielder Ruben Neves, certainly represented the spirit manager Nuno Espirito Santo has instilled in his players and the fact they are not overawed by better-established Premier League opponents.
“We want to do this every game. We want to play every game like it is the last game of our lives,” he said.
“We can’t think about the opponent all the time. If we do things right, it’s easier for us. We’re never going to be afraid to play our football. They are not superheroes, they are players and if we do things well we can make it difficult for other teams.”
MAN UNITED (4-3-3): De Gea 8; Valencia 7, Smalling 7, Lindelof 5, Shaw 5; Pogba 6, Fellaini 7, Fred 7 (Martial 62, 6); Lingard 6 (Pereira 74, 5), Lukaku 5, Sanchez 5 (Mata 62, 6).
Subs not used: Bailly, Young, Romero, McTominay.
WOLVES (3-4-2-1): Patricio 7; Bennett 6, Coady 6, Boly 8; Doherty 6, Moutinho 7 (Saiss 79, 6), Neves 8, Otto 7; Costa 9 (Traore 74, 6), Jota 7 (Gibbs-White 86); Jimenez 8.
Subs not used: Ruddy, Vinagre, House, Bonatini.
Referee: K Friend 7
Talking point - What has happened to Sanchez?
This was not a disastrous display from Manchester United, yet the problems experienced by the club’s huge January signing Alexis Sanchez persist. It was another subdued display from the Chilean, who has three goals in 23 appearances for United, versus the 80 he netted in 166 games for Arsenal.
“What you have to know about Alexis is he is a hard worker,” said team-mate Paul Pogba. “He trains very well, he always tries to help the team, talks with the team and everything. He will get used to it.
“When you play a long time with another team and you play different football in that other team you have some kind of adaptation that you have to have.
“It’s not that he is playing bad. We know that Alexis Sanchez can bring a lot and I’m sure he will...he keeps being positive, you know, so that’s the good thing we have to think about.”