Sir Alex Ferguson admitted to being nervous before making his return to Old Trafford. He didn’t want to make a big show of it and, as kick-off approached, he received the rapturous applause, waved to every corner of the stadium and took his seat in the directors’ box.
As the great man made his first public appearance since brain surgery in early May, it felt almost inevitable that Manchester United would mark the occasion with a rousing home win against Wolves. At least, it did until the game got under way.
Following three successive away wins, United were back at the scene of their 3-0 humbling against Tottenham in August, after which Jose Mourinho insisted his side were just a slab of fortune away from being worthy winners.
But this was another afternoon on which United failed to make the most of their opportunities despite enjoying the better of the game and Wolves could arguably have walked away with more than the 1-1 draw.
After the visitors had got the upper hand early on and forced a great save by David de Gea from Raul Jimenez’s turn and shot from close range, United eventually got a foothold in the game and began to ask questions.
It was from a delightful piece of play by Pogba that United took the lead, the Frenchman delivering a magnificent pass with the outside of his boot for Fred to spin and shoot first time beyond Rui Patricio.
They could have added more goals had a couple of passes into the area found a red shirt rather than space, and Fred’s excellent free-kick on the stroke of half-time had the goalkeeper scrambling across to save.
But Wolves also had chances of their own, as De Gea was given more work to do from set-pieces, most notably from Matt Doherty’s header. And they would eventually get a leveller when Pogba went for an over-elaborate shoulder drop with little cover behind him.
The Frenchman was dispossessed by Ruben Neves to begin a counter, and Jimenez stayed calm to tee up Joao Moutinho, who curled home from the edge of the area.
To give Pogba credit he continued to be United’s most likely catalyst in the search for a victory but, in truth, their second-half push for victory was often too predictable and lacked serious cutting edge.
At the scene of many a Ferguson-inspired late barrage and countless ‘Fergie Time’ winners, Wolves rarely looked likely to crack under the comfortable pressure levels.
Old Trafford was once the fortress that opposition sides hated to visit. But since Ferguson retired there has been a different feel about the place, and even a manager with the home record Mourinho has enjoyed over the years has found it difficult to make it the daunting environment of old.
Indeed, since the Portuguese coach took over in 2016, United have dropped six points from seven Premier League games against newly promoted opposition – more than they had in the previous 10 seasons (5).