Erik ten Hag always faces challenges. As the manager of Manchester United, he constantly has to put out fires. Despite Marcus Rashford’s recent mistake, ten Hag has made it clear that he has the support of his team. And it’s true – no one can deny that after Kobbie Mainoo scored a spectacular goal in the 96th minute and 26th second, securing a victory for the team.
After initially leading 2-0 in the first 22 minutes, Manchester United faced a setback as they were tied with their opponent at 3-3 in the 95th minute. Just when it seemed like their chances were going up in smoke, they made a stunning comeback thanks to the contribution of their substitutes, particularly 18-year-old Mainoo from Stockport. He fearlessly maneuvered past João Gomes, skillfully nutmegged Max Kilman, and entered the penalty area before effortlessly placing a right-footed shot into the bottom corner.
Sir Alex Ferguson sat beside David Gill, the former chief executive of United, in the directors’ box with a beaming smile on his face. Ten Hag, wearing a grey beanie, let out a sigh of relief but remained mostly unmoved. It was clear he was still frustrated with how his team had once again fallen apart, conceding two goals in their fourth consecutive league game.
The players, staff, and fans from both teams were in disbelief. Nélson Semedo and Mario Lemina, feeling extremely disappointed, were brought down to their hands and knees. João Gomes covered his eyes as Mainoo and his United teammates celebrated loudly. It was an absurd ending to the football game.
The Wolves increased their intensity after Lisandro Martínez saved a header from Kilman in the second half. They responded with a penalty goal from Casemiro’s foul on Pedro Neto in the box. Pablo Sarabia, who orchestrated Wolves’ impressive comeback against Tottenham in November, scored against André Onana, who had just returned to the United goal after playing in the Africa Cup of Nations for Cameroon. Many believed that the Wolves’ chances of repeating their previous victory were over when Scott McTominay, without any opposition, scored a header from Bruno Fernandes’s corner in the 75th minute.
The United team is constantly on the verge of a crisis, and Wolves showed their determination once again as Kilman scored from a short distance with only five minutes left in regular time. With a 3-2 lead, Ten Hag made the decision to bring on Harry Maguire and Jonny Evans to secure the victory. However, Neto broke free on the right side, made a cut inside, and fired a shot that hit Onana’s left post. In a bizarre turn of events, United had gone all-out in their attack, leaving their defence vulnerable and giving Neto the opportunity to score for Wolves.
For so long the obvious thing was to laud Rashford’s goalscoring return after his latest ticking-off from Ten Hag but, zoom out a little, and there were glimmers of something else stirring beneath the surface. For the best part of an hour, United made rather compelling viewing. Rashford and Rasmus Højlund capped slick team moves. Ten Hag acknowledged this was probably his strongest starting lineup of the season and a team brimming with World Cup and Champions League winners and a couple of the game’s brightest talents seemed to click.
Ten Hag emphasized that the issue with Rashford’s unauthorized partying in Belfast last week was now closed, but in truth, everyone was curious to see how the 26-year-old would perform upon his return to the team. The result was impressive, as Rashford caused trouble for Semedo, Wolves’ right-wing back. According to Gary O’Neil of Wolves, they expected Rashford to be in the starting lineup, which may have been the reason for the pre-match playlist featuring songs titled “Tequila” by The Champs and Terrorvision.
In just 25 minutes, as United maintained a 2-0 lead, the fans from the opposing team gathered at the bottom of the Steve Bull Stand found humor in the situation and praised his recent disciplinary incident. They all chanted, “Rashford is having a good time!”
Rashford played a key role in United’s success, but Casemiro and Højlund both had goals disallowed due to being offside. However, the concerning aspect is that for the fourth consecutive league game, United let in at least two goals, highlighting their ongoing vulnerability. Sarabia scored from a penalty kick, and Kilman later narrowed the gap. Rashford was substituted after 73 minutes for Antony, and by that point, Wolves had already scored thanks to Sarabia’s penalty kick down the middle, following a foul on Casemiro who had already received a yellow card.
However, as Ten Hag acknowledged, United unintentionally helped Wolves. Once challenged by United, whose weaknesses were revealed by an average League Two team in their previous match, they were quickly unsettled. Martinez prevented Kilman’s header from going into the goal and Craig Dawson came close with a deflected shot that bounced off Onana’s head and was cleared. Alejandro Garnacho celebrated after stealing the ball from Mario Lemina near midfield, as if it were a third goal. Ultimately, United needed four goals to secure the victory.