When Manchester United named a rotated squad, a near-identical side that struggled to a 2-1 loss to Champions League hopefuls Leicester City, the groans of dissent grew with the prospect of losing their unbeaten away run grew.
In the end, the result was anything but, United ran out 2-1 winners with a brilliant header from Anthony Elanga making it 1-0 after a brilliant Dan James cross with his weaker foot.
United ran out 2-1 winners when a foul on Donny Van de Beek by Romain Saiss, on the ankle was reviewed by VAR, before Mike Dean awarded the penalty. Juan Mata converted the penalty sending Rui Patricio the wrong way to give United the lead and the final day victory.
United now go into the Europa League final in Gdansk, off the back of a good morale-boosting victory in the Black Country. The fitness of Harry Maguire remains a question but for now, the players at Solskjaer’s disposal should and will need to be enough to beat Unai Emery’s Villarreal side in Poland on Wednesday night.
- Youngsters shine in an impressive win
United named Anthony Elanga, Amad, Will Fish, Shola Shoretire and Hannibal Mejbri in their matchday squad for the game at the Molineux stadium.
With the teenagers all breaking through around the same time, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer thought it would be the best time to blood the youngsters through.
Anthony Elanga a rapid Swedish winger scored a bullet header, his general play was very good albeit a bit raw, showed his talent and his raw natural pace.
Amad, who was brought in for nearly £40 million from the Italian side Atalanta showed his quality with a mature performance for his age. He should have had an assist when the Ivorian played a brilliant through ball to Dan James who should have scored but scuffed his effort.
Under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the promotion from within has been a constant theme during the Norwegian’s tenure in charge at Old Trafford. Mason Greenwood, Brandon Williams and now Anthony Elanga are just a few examples of players who have come through the clubs famed youth academy.
Going forward, the club’s identity of bringing through youth players, which seemed to be put on pause during the previous managers spell in charge at Old Trafford, will be changed for the better.
Players from the outside will look at the club and think they will get chances to impress, something which has eluded them for a few years it seems.
- Who will partner Lindelöf in Gdansk?
Harry Maguire’s injury has shown the frailties within United’s defence but Sunday’s performance against Wolves potentially showed Solskjaer who is ready to step into Maguire’s boots for 90 minutes at least.
The performance of the Young Englishman will be sure to give Solskjaer a few headaches ahead of the cup final in Gdansk. Tuanzebe and Ivorian Eric Bailly will be vying for the spot in the final unless Maguire makes a miraculous recovery which is looking less and less likely, despite the defender walking now after spending nearly two weeks in a protective boot.
Villarreal like many Spanish sides like to play the ball on the ground, although have a solid defensive unit who like to sit deep and spring on the counterattack. The pace, reading of the game and good tackling that Tuanzebe brings into the game can’t be underestimated.
Eric Bailly albeit a very competent defender and very fast along the ground, can be very reckless at times lunging in for tackles which may play to the oppositions advantage.
- Season comes to an end with United remaining unbeaten away from home
United began the season poorly losing 3-1 at home to Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace side, and indeed all six of United’s losses have come at Old Trafford. Despite the poor home results which will be of concern particularly with the manner of defeats.
The away form of the Old Trafford side has been nothing short of superb, with fantastic away wins at Manchester City, Everton and Tottenham Hotspur.
If United are to become title challengers then their home form will need to improve, which won't be news to United’s Norwegian manager but their away form is superb which should give the side a good base to build on ahead of next season.
If the manager gets the players he wants, which with the recent protests around Old Trafford surely the owners will invest the sums of money needed to mount a serious title challenge, then the dream of a Premier League title under Solskjaer may become reality sooner rather than later.
The final in Gdansk represents the biggest chance for United to gain some silverware from a tough season, Solskjaer will be hoping that this trophy is the first of many.