Wolves’ first win at Old Trafford since 1980, standout performances from Joao Moutinho and Ruben Neves and a first game in two weeks were just some of the topics discussed on the latest episode of Matchday Live Extra.
Joining Mikey Burrows was co-commentator and Wolves Hall of Fame full-back Andy Thompson, as well as League One-winning captain Sam Ricketts as they analysed Bruno Lage’s men getting their 2022 off to the best possible start.
The trio also spoke about another clean sheet, winning every time Wolves have scored a goal and how Romain Saiss will be missed as he heads off to the Africa Cup of Nations.
On the enforced Christmas break due to Covid
Thompson said: “They always talk about players needing a rest during this time and a lot of managers have been calling for a break in games over Christmas, but for me, I think it’s tradition to have all those games over Christmas, people look forward to it, and as a player, I used to love it and I’m sure Sam will say the same thing.
“I know it’s tiring, but there’s nothing better than playing football over Christmas. It’s great to have and great to watch. I’ve have really missed the games with all the postponed games, especially ours, and it’s part of parcel of Christmas.
“However, the players would have got the chance to spend a bit more time with their families, and although we don’t know which players had it [Covid], but what it did do was give them a little bit more time around their families. But for me, Christmas is all about football and the games coming thick-and-fast.”
On a first win at Old Trafford in 42 years
Ricketts said: “I’ve enjoyed it, but not half as much as those Wolves fans inside the stadium. What a performance. From the outset, they were on the front foot – not so much controlling the game, but they were always waiting for that final pass, shot and cross, whatever it was, to go in and it came from Moutinho. It was very well deserved.”
Thompson added: “I thought it was very well deserved. First-half especially, I thought we played really well. A little bit in the second-half, Man United made a change because they were getting overrun by Wolves, the quality of Wolves, and the opportunities that were created.
“But you saw Man United throw everything at them, they stood strong at the back, they made it difficult for Man United to have free efforts at goal – ok, Fernandes hit the bar – but that was the first time we switched off in the game. But you count your blessings sometimes and we got the luck today.”
Starting 2022 the 𝗿𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁 way! 😁 pic.twitter.com/eVLPGoA5Cm— Wolves (@Wolves) January 3, 2022
On keeping it tight and making chances count
Ricketts said: “19 shots Wolves have had today, away from home at Old Trafford, that’s unbelievable. What we’re seeing now is that Wolves are playing a bit more expansive and creating chances like today. It’s great when you’re not scoring loads to keep it zeros and ones, so one goal can win you the game.
“But we’re looking at a team that can evolve and can improve, and with 19 shots, you could have should be scoring two or three from that. If you continue that into the other games, it can change the whole dynamic of the team.”
Thompson added: “If you don’t concede goals, it gives you a great opportunity to win games, and Wolves have done that this year. I know they’re not massive goalscorers, but what they have done is that it gives them an opportunity to win a game – and it’s proven again today.”
On the midfield pair of Neves and Moutinho
Thompson said: “The pair of them, I just thought were exceptional. There’s a lot of talk about whether the two of them can play together, but I think this season has proved that they can.
“They make it difficult for teams to actually get anything, they press as a pair, which is essential for what they need to be doing, but when they get the ball, they soon open up teams. They make sure they give us a chance.”
Our magical midfield duo.— Wolves (@Wolves) January 3, 2022
On substitutes making a difference for the winning goal
Ricketts said: “I think everyone gets frustrated with Traore because he can be unstoppable and the impact he made shows with the goal. He dropped the shoulder, crossed it in, it was headed out and then Moutinho touched and finished.
“It’s the ability to drive with the ball, go past people, cross it and they got one goal, and with him on the pitch, they probably should’ve got a couple more as well.”
Thompson added: “We talk about squad depth, and Silva possibly hasn’t had as much game time as Traore’s had, but any chance you have at getting onto the pitch, you’ve got to make things happen and do things. Forget about your own personal things, you’ve got to do it for the team, and they’ve got that collectiveness in the squad.
“They’ve got that collectiveness as a unit who want to work and do it for each other. You saw that with Jimenez running 60 yards in the first-half to close somebody down, you’ve got Traore running 40 yards forwards to try and help his team out, Silva’s tyring to hold the ball up and get some space or win a free-kick. But it’s all about working for the team.
“I know players get frustrated because they want to play football, and rightfully so, but when you come onto the pitch, you’ve got to try the best that you can, and for me, Traore caused them big problems when he came on.”
On Saiss’ final game before AFCON
Ricketts said: “I know he’s played in the back three now for a fair few games, but you always worry about the mentality is that of a midfielder as opposed to an actual defender – does he know where to be sub-consciously and will he put his body on the line, and to be fair, he’s grown into the role, he’s learned and developed over the last two years.
“He’s just like Conor Coady now. You wouldn’t say Coady is a midfielder playing as a defender, and you wouldn’t say the same about Romain as well.
“But it’s not just that, it’s about the understanding he has with the other two lads at the back, because they have a really good understanding together, they know where each other are – defensive-wise – and they have a good team spirit between them as well, in terms of talking during the game and driving each other on.”
You can watch Matchday Live Extra 30 minutes before every Wolves kick-off this season, on Twitter and on Wolves TV, before heading over to the Wolves App following full-time for all the post-match reaction.