Manchester United's hopes of securing a top-four finish were dealt a huge blow as they were stunned 2-1 by Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux on Tuesday evening.
United began positively and were rewarded after just 14 minutes as Scott McTominay's low drive from outside the area flew past Rui Patricio and into the bottom corner. However, their lead did not last long as Diogo Jota found himself free in the penalty area following a mistake from Fred to fire Wolves level just ten minutes later.
The hosts pushed hard to extend their lead, but the score remained level at the break.
McTominay soon had a great chance to head home his second, but Patricio produced a stunning save to keep the score level. Just minutes later, Ashley Young was dismissed by Mike Dean for a second bookable offence, but the hosts failed to make their advantage pay as United remained on top.
However, despite their dominance, United again conceded a sloppy goal as they failed to deal with a cross, before the ball hit off Chris Smalling and trickled into the back of the net. Ivan Cavaleiro should have added a third in stoppage time, but sent his effort crashing against the crossbar. It mattered little for Wolves, who held on to earn all three points.
Check out our breakdown of the game below.
Key Talking Point
Wolves came into this game boasting a formidable record against top-six sides, but you wouldn't have guessed it from the first 25 minutes of play. Nuno Espirito Santo's men looked flat, just as they did against Burnley, and it seemed to be nothing more than a training session for United. But, out of nowhere, things changed.
A mistake from Fred gifted Jota an equaliser, and they looked up for the fight. Before the goal, they almost looked scared of United, but they eventually remembered that they are the giant-killers. With momentum on their side, they looked to be a new team. This is the kind of energy which has made them great, and long may it continue.
STAR MAN - Diogo Jota
The partnership between Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota is utterly stunning. They boast a perfect blend of pace and power, and it was Jota who shined brightest at Molineux. The 22-year-old took a while to get into the game, but took the momentum from his goal and used it to terrorise Luke Shaw and Diogo Dalot throughout the game.
Jota simply knows how to play football. His confidence and talent is clear to see, and he is evidently enjoying life at Wolves. They will likely face a battle to keep hold of both Jota and Jimenez, but Wolves should do everything possible to convince the pair to stay. They are building something special here.
Key Talking Point
Perhaps spurred on by Louis van Gaal's criticism of his tactics, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer opted to try something new and match Wolves' three-at-the-back formation. The versatile Ashley Young tried his hand as a centre-back, but it might be the last time he does so. Outside of that, it was encouraging for Solskjaer.
United pressed high, with wing-backs Shaw and Dalot operating almost as pure wingers, and their positive tactics were rewarded. Before conceding the equaliser, United looked terrifyingly dangerous. However, after the goal, things certainly changed.
Wolves eventually figured out Young was not a centre-back, and also that United do not have much match experience in this formation. Young was exposed and his red card was proof that he was not comfortable in this position, and it ultimately cost his team. Rivals will only look at the scoreline, but their performance was encouraging.
Maybe they should try three actual centre-backs next time.
Starting XI: De Gea (6); Young (3), Smalling (5), Lindelof (6), Shaw (6); Fred (5), McTominay (7*), Pogba (6); Dalot (6), Lukaku (6), Lingard (6).
Substitutes: Jones (5), Martial (6), Pereira (6).
STAR MAN - Scott McTominay
United's midfield enforcer, McTominay enjoyed a fantastic showing at Molineux. He did his job of breaking up Wolves' attacking play, but made a substantial impact at the other end of the field. It was his great strike which opened the scoring, and he should have had a second with a header shortly after the break.
Ice cold. No Smile. Came from Lancaster. Finally given a chance by our fans. Midfielders have families. Dripping in Scottish sauce. Sauce on Spill. Killer. Winner. Baller.SMCT39. Nevas ain’t ready. Has Jota on strings. It really is MctomiGoat szn. Mctominay FC eating Haggis. pic.twitter.com/HPfJUOjcdg— Ronan Campbell (@RonanCampbell10) April 2, 2019
Not only the goal but the general play of McTominay has been really good tbf. Wouldn't mind seeing him in this more advanced MF role again. The best of a pretty average bunch tonight.— Mikey (@Prime_MUFC) April 2, 2019
When United went down to ten men, he had to drop into a deeper role to help his team cope, but he remained keen to involve himself at both ends of the field. He has long been tipped as the long-term replacement for Nemanja Matic at the base of United's midfield, but his future may be further up the field.