Manchester United have signed off for the year by beating Wolves 1-0 at Molineux and here is what we learned from the game…
Ten Hag takes no prisoners with Rashford
Marcus Rashford went into this game in his best form since before the pandemic but the only change Erik ten Hag made to his line-up was to drop him to the bench.
Ten Hag explained before the game it was due to disciplinary reasons, although the fact the forward was on the bench and came on at half-time suggests it was not that serious.
But Ten Hag underlined once again that he has standards that he will not allow anyone to drop below, no matter who you are or how well you are playing.
Shaw plays out of position again
Many might have expected that Harry Maguire or Victor Lindelof would come back into the heart of the United backline here.
But Luke Shaw once again got the nod as the left-sided central defender and responded with a display showing command in the air and composure in possession.
It remains to be seen how long Ten Hag keeps the experiment up for, but Shaw has not let him down so far.
United fail to make first half pressure pay
It was an even first half in terms of possession but United had the better chances before the interval.
Alejandro Garnacho should have opened the scoring when he raced onto a loose backpass by Nelson Semedo but telegraphed his finish which allowed Jose Sa to save
Anthony Martial allowed two opening to go begging and United showed a lack of ruthlessness which Ten Hag will look to stamp out, perhaps with the recruitment of a new forward during January to help that process along.
Rashford makes the difference
Rashford had not done an awful lot between his half-time introduction and opening the scoring but he made an absolutely crucial contribution.
His burst into the box showed pace and strength before he took a moment to settle himself down and fire home to spark celebrations in the away end.
With six minutes remaining, he repeated the trick and looked physically dominant as he burst into the box, thinking he had made it 2-0 only for it to be ruled out due to an incredibly harsh handball call given the ball would have bounced in off his torso anyway.
United take chance to go into the top four
United went into this game knowing that a win would take them into the top four before Tottenham face Aston Villa tomorrow.
This was a really tight game which could have gone either way but United made sure they were the ones who got all three points.
A missed opportunity here would have been deeply frustrating and the way Ten Hag celebrated Rashford’s goal to break the deadlock showed just what he thought of it.
Sam Preston a senior football writer for the Boot Room and United in Focus. He is an NCTJ gold standard news and sports journalist with five years of professional experience writing digital content. He studied with the Press Association and also has a 2:1 Law with French Law degree from the University of Birmingham, which included a year studying at Bordeaux Montaigne University. He is an FA Level 1 football coach who appeared on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show in 2018 and has also written digital football content and match-day programme pieces for Burnley, Colchester United, Mansfield Town and Stockport County.