Daniel James and Jesse Lingard attack against Wolves

How United's front four worked at Wolves

Manchester United’s attacking players put in an encouraging collective performance on Monday night, in the lively 1-1 draw with Wolverhampton Wanderers.

The Reds lined up at Molineux with Daniel James - making his first competitive start for United - on the right wing, Jesse Lingard in a no.10 role and Marcus Rashford cutting in from the left flank. The attack was spearheaded by Anthony Martial, who appropriately operated as a no.9; he reclaimed that shirt number earlier this month after Romelu Lukaku's departure.

From an offensive point of view, the Frenchman was probably United’s most influential player on Monday night and he bagged our only goal of the game.

Highlights: Wolves 1 United 1Video

It means Anthony is one of just five Premier League players to net in both of the opening two rounds of fixtures this season, and speaking after the game, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was full of praise for the man who formerly wore no.11.

“He's a boy who wants to learn, wants to improve, wants to score goals,”
the Norwegian said in his post-match press conference. 

“He’s scored two in two now and he’ll only improve. The more we get him in positions to score, the more goals he'll score.

“This was a wonderful goal but [I want him to] add those five extra tap-ins. He’s already had one last week [against Chelsea] so he’s got four more to go at least.

“He’s more and more [positioned centrally] in between the posts, so I’m happy with that. And the relationship between him Marcus, Jesse and the other forwards will only improve,”
Ole added.
There certainly were signs at Molineux of the developing partnerships between our attacking players in Ole’s new-look system, with the Martial-Rashford combination looking particularly promising.

The pair, who were constantly fed by Paul Pogba’s raking passes from deep, linked up to create several chances against Wolves, including the goal.

Marcus’s inch-perfect pass and Anthony’s superbly timed run in the 28th minute left the hosts with little chance of preventing the goal. The finish wasn’t bad either: a hard, left-footed effort by Martial which flew past Rui Patricio.

Lingard was also involved in the successful move that demonstrated exactly how Ole wants his forwards to play: quick, dynamic and direct, and the early signs suggest the boss instilled this philosophy in our attacking players during his first pre-season in charge.

Rashford: we deserved winVideo

United supporters saw just how devastating Ole’s offensive strategy can be against Chelsea, when the Reds put four past the Londoners, completely blowing them away in the second period. 

The power and pace of the Reds' attack was on show again at times on Monday, and the build-up play for the penalty - orchestrated by our French pair of Martial and Pogba - was rapidly sleek. Within seconds Paul went from midway inside the Wolves half, to be tripped in the area by Ryan Bennett.

Speaking of speed, James's innate ability to race past defenders put him on the receiving end of several tough tackles from Wolves early on, and he was unfortunate to receive a yellow card for diving in the first half, after replays showed Joao Moutinho made contact with the no.21 before he went down.

Solskjaer's Wolves verdictVideo

Speaking after the game, Ole felt the Welshman had been harshly treated by the officials.

“He's that quick and he gets kicked so many times that it’s natural for him to try and protect himself,”
said the boss in his press conference.

“For me, how many fouls did he suffer today? How many times did they go through him? I have no problem if sometimes he tries to avoid being kicked.”


In just his second Premier League appearance, James shone again on the right flank and on regular occasions he flew past opposition wingback Matt Doherty, who was replaced at half-time. In fact, the Wales international produced six crosses and he even had a good chance to win the game in the latter stages, but his effort was blocked and went behind for a corner.

Lingard also contributed to a positive display against Wolves, as a propellant in our fast-paced breakaways.
Jesse carried out a selfless role at times for United and often drifted wide to create gaps for Rashford to cut inside from the left flank.

That fluidity is another aspect of Ole’s new offensive plan, with Lingard, Rashford and Martial constantly switching positions, making it difficult for the opposition backline to track their movements.

At this early stage of the season, it appears the manager has his attacking players well drilled in how he wants to play - as a unit, rather than a group of four talented individuals.

Hopefully, the prowess shown against Wolves will prove to be a sign of things to come for the Reds in 2019/20, both on the road and at home in front of the Old Trafford faithful.

The views expressed in the article are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Manchester United.

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