Wolves will fancy their chances at Wembley whoever the opposition as they halt one of the big six sides again
- The Chelsea manager claimed the way Wolves operate requires no organisation
- The manner Wolves dispatched a full-strength United team begs to differ
- Cavaliers of the game, they may not be, but they were doing the most to thrill
Wolves reaching an FA Cup semi-final for the first time since 1998, and yet another big side falling victim to Nuno Espirito Santo are the headline facts. But this result and performance doesn’t half make Maurizio Sarri look silly too.
The Chelsea manager claimed the way Wolves operate requires no organisation and that Nuno’s side refuse to play football. The manner they dispatched a full-strength Manchester United team begs to differ.
Cavaliers of the game, they may not be, but they were the ones doing most to thrill at Molineux. They had the best chances, and won the game comfortably.
Another big side falling victim to Nuno Espirito Santo’s side are the headline facts at Molineux
So United join Chelsea, Tottenham, and Liverpool in losing to Wolves this season, while Manchester City and Arsenal have been held to draws. Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota struck decisively and by the end there were ‘Oles’ from the home crowd as their team passed it around.
To begin, Wolves did sit off United. But only in the way a boxer might feel out his opponent in the opening exchanges, rather than as any anti-football approach.
Solskjaer’s defenders were not pressured when on the ball yet as soon as more threatening players picked it up their space was suffocated.
Sarri might sneer but up against what could be termed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s best outfield team Wolves were entitled to maintain the zero, then build. To suggest that requires no organisation is being willfully ignorant.
Wolves striker Raul Jimenez (centre) celebrates after scoring the opening goal of the match
Wolves are a team of great synchronicity, where players are constantly shifting positions to cover gaps. When Matt Doherty pushes out to the wing, Romain Saiss becomes right-back. When Joao Moutinho presses high, Leander Dendoncker covers in behind. The Wolves team is a system of tectonic plates, constantly tessellating in different ways. Captain Conor Coady directs from the back.
Eventually Wolves began to expand their play and the clearest chances were theirs. Ruben Neves struck Moutinho’s low corner cleanly but without enough power to beat Sergio Romero. Jota didn’t quite catch Doherty’s cross.
The sharp counter has become Wolves’ trademark though and three minutes before the break it clicked into action for a golden opportunity. United had actually snuffed out the first wave of a break but Jonny Otto seized the ball back again and Neves threaded a quick ball behind Victor Lindelof to send his friend Jota clear. Romero was out superbly to save the shot.
Diogo Jota scores his side’s second goal of the game and runs away to celebrate with the fans
Wolves stepped up their superiority in the second half. Jimenez drew a fine save from Romero with a header from Moutino’s corner and Moutinho himself saw his curling shot tipped over.
It was no surprise that when they went ahead with 20 minutes left Moutinho was central again. He beat three United players to dart into box and Jimenez did the business at second bite.
Jota’s finish from another rapid break was just as clinical, a flat shot to catch Romero off guard. Wolves will fancy their chances at Wembley whoever the opposition.