A drab 0-0 draw at the Molineux saw both Manchester United and Wolves enter the draw for the next round of the FA Cup, although both were unconvincing.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side seemed to run out of ideas every time they entered the final third – something United fans have become all too familiar with. There was no cutting edge. The manager will blame the fixture list and rotation of players, but the truth is, we would have seen much the same even if it was United’s strongest XI.
The performance was lacking in tempo and expression, with United limited to pop shots from distance which never really troubled the keeper. The only injection of pace was seen 20 minutes from time with the introduction of the Reds’ two most energetic players, Marcus Rashford and Fred.
Preceding their arrival, there weren’t many positives for Solskjaer to take from the game. However, one player who showed the desire required to play for United was young Brandon Williams.
Another standout performance
Every time the teenager has played, we have seen a full-back that is hungry to defend and more than willing to drive forward at every opportunity.
Adama Traore is arguably one of the biggest tests Williams has had to face with the winger in exceptional form. His blistering pace and strength were matched by the academy graduate who gave Traore little to no joy down the right flank. As a result, the Wolves star consistently cut inside to try his luck against United’s centre-halves who also stood strong.
The youngster remained a constant threat down United’s left-wing, always in space and always demanding the ball. Williams was also unlucky not to be awarded a penalty after a clumsy tackle brought him down in the box.
Shaw still United’s number one?
Luke Shaw has been considered by many as the first choice left-back with everyone expecting him to walk back into the team when he returns from his frequent injury problems. But Williams has proved himself more than capable of filling the position and has performed to an exceptional standard.
Although Shaw is more experienced and has a better tactical understanding, Williams makes up for that with bags of pace. He is able to recover from mistakes because of this, and fares even better in one-on-ones against opposition wingers.
Coupled with this, Williams shows an appetite to get forward that United fans have been so used to over the years. His willingness to overlap at speed allows him to get into positions behind opposing full-backs, giving him chances to cross which he can do with either foot.
Shaw has been given chance after chance to claim the number one left-back spot as his own but some inconsistent performances and regular injury problems have left the door wide open.
Is it time for Williams to take over?
Williams doesn’t seem to be trusted by his manager. He is given the opportunity against lesser sides and in the cup, but when it comes to the big games, he falls down the pecking order with Solskjaer preferring Shaw or Ashley Young in games such as Liverpool, Tottenham, Man City and Arsenal.
It is time for the manager to trust in the youth. Williams has impressed with nearly every outing and is only going to improve. His defensive game is solid and he provides an entirely different prospect going forward to United’s other left-back options.
He is the perfect asset for Solskjaer’s counter-attacking tactic with bundles of pace and energy. He can beat opponents with the ball at his feet going either way. He can cross with both feet and has even proved he can score goals with a spectacular volley against Sheffield United.
Solskjaer must give Williams a consistent run of games. There is lots of room for the teenager to grow, but with more minutes, more experience and more confidence, we could see him blossom into United’s number one full-back for years to come.