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Wolves rue penalty decision as Ten Hag hails United’s fighting spirit



Premier League - Manchester United v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Old Trafford, Manchester, Britain - August 14, 2023 Manchester United's Raphael Varane celebrates scoring their first goal with Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

Wolverhampton Wanderers were left aggrieved by a late penalty appeal that was turned down in their 1-0 loss at Manchester United on Monday, but new manager Gary O’Neil believes there were many positives in a contest his side largely dominated.

Raphael Varane scored the only goal in their Premier League opener but Wolves were convinced they should have had a spot kick deep in added time, which O’Neil insisted highlighted a grey area in how the Video Assistant Referee is used.

United goalkeeper Andre Onana, making his competitive debut for the club, clattered into Wolves substitute Sasa Kalajdzic as he arrived late to try and punch clear a cross but got nowhere near the ball and left the striker on the ground.

Referee Simon Hooper saw nothing wrong and with a clear directive for VAR to only intervene in clear and obvious errors, there was no call to look again at the incident.

“The goalkeeper has come and just about taken our striker’s head off,” O’Neil told Sky Sports. “It’s a foul, it has to be. But I’m not overly surprised we did not get it to be honest.


“I understand the rules (of staying with on-field decisions where possible), but I don’t fully accept it.”

Not surprisingly United manager Eric ten Hag had a different view of the incident, though he admitted his team were given an almighty scare in their Premier League opener.

“It is difficult. Andre was really brave to come out and the ball was touched before he dived in so I don’t think he had an influence on the touch from the opponent. You can debate it, but I think no penalty,” he said.

“The opposition were dynamic. We had to match that. We had to fight for our points. They’re a tough team. We hope we’ll be better on the ball in the next game.”

Wolves had 23 shots, the second most against United at Old Trafford since data was first collected 20 years ago, which O’Neil said was testament to his side’s confidence to attack.


“In the end we can’t just focus on that (penalty) decision. To come to Old Trafford and have the most shots of any side since 2005 and dominate after just four days of work (in training) is exceptional. The lads deserved more tonight.”



Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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