United’s flirtation with the idea they might be rescued by some Rangnick miracle is surely discredited by another clueless display. A defeat, a draw, it didn’t really matter.
The substance of the issue is obvious. United are nowhere near good enough. Newcastle were better but didn’t convert. Norwich were no worse than United in a narrow defeat. Only Burnley of the bottom-three folded, but that hardly conferred plausibility on this listing red vessel.
Yes, United improved with the introduction of Bruno Fernandes with half an hour to go. Fernandes should have scored instead of hitting the bar when the scores were still level. Jose Sa was at full stretch from Fernandes with the last play of the match. All of it a diversion which Rangnick would do well to ignore.
Wolves peppered the United goal with 19 shots, six on target. United conjured two on target and conceded eight corners before claiming one.
Wolves had not played since December 19, a consequence of the kind of Covid-enforced break that according to missing captain Harry Maguire accounted for United’s flat display at Newcastle. Wolves’ exposed that theory for the twaddle it was and identified United as second-raters with big club pretentions.
Rangnick’s fondness for antiques informed a selection that included twin spearheads Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani at a combined age of 70. Not much gegenpressing there. The re-distribution of the captain’s armband in the direction of Ronaldo for the second time in his career served only to augment his sense of entitlement. Let’s face it, Ronaldo is never going to the bar to get a round in. He has servants to do that for him.
This feature, coupled with the deep-lying Nemanja Matic and Scott McTominay created a huge distance between front and back, which was inevitably filled by the thoroughly modern midfield of Wolves. Presumably, Rangnick assumed Mason Greenwood and Jadon Sancho would tuck in to add support. This didn’t happen and as a result, Wolves controlled the contest. Take your pick, Ruben Neves, Joao Moutinho, Daniel Podence, United could not get the ball off any of them.
Devoid of cohesion and a functioning centre in the opening half United snatched at the moments that did present, so Sancho went alone when he might have played in Ronaldo, Cavani tried to pierce the net from distance with support breaking either side of him and Ronaldo dribbled himself into a comedy heap. At the back United were frantic, flailing about like dads who’d had a few at the barbie and couldn’t get near the kids.
United’s most impressive performer before the introduction of Fernandes was a player who had been out for two years. Phil Jones’ career has followed the trajectory of the team in his decade at the club. That is not a good thing, though we wish him well with the rebuilt knee. If he does leave United in the summer, the chances are he will be going to a better place.