Bruno Fernandes was unable to inspire Manchester United to victory on his debut as the £47m new arrival had to settle for a goalless draw against Wolves at Old Trafford.
In a game of few chances, Fernandes did force a couple of routine saves from fellow countryman Rui Patricio, who also almost dropped another into his own net as he inexplicably fumbled his fellow Portuguese’s tame shot round the post.
The nearest United came to scoring was in the final minute of stoppage time when substitute Diogo Dalot headed Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s cross narrowly wide, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men have now taken just four points from five games.
Wolves worked hard but, despite introducing their debutant, Daniel Podence, near the end, also lacked a killer touch in front of goal.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s men have now won once in six games since their memorable comeback triumph against Manchester City on 27 December and, with 13 games of the campaign remaining, are, like United, six points off a Champions League place and behind Sheffield United.
A solid debut for Fernandes
While it could not be described as an explosive debut, Fernandes did enough to indicate he will improve United as an offensive threat.
The former Sporting Lisbon man was eager to get on the ball, took the initiative at set-pieces and was not afraid to shoot.
His first effort drifted wide as he shot from the angle. His second, from a central position, turned out to be the hosts’ only first-half shot on target, which went straight at Patricio.
Almost more noticeable was the ugly stuff. A hoofed clearance from the edge of United’s six-yard box brought chants of ‘Bruno, Bruno’ from the Stretford End behind him.
Then a thunderous challenge on fellow countryman Joao Moutinho eventually brought a cursory check to see if the Wolves midfielder was OK as he lay on the ground receiving treatment.
Another free-kick and the routine shot Patricio almost made a mess of were Fernandes’ second-half highlights, although he will not be able to raise the whole underperforming team on his own.
This was the third meeting between these sides in the space of 29 days and their sixth encounter in less than a year.
As the previous five had resulted in a couple of 2-1 victories for Wolves, a 1-0 triumph for United and two draws, it was perhaps no surprise the latest encounter should be equally tight.
The visitors did have chances, with Raul Jimenez forcing an excellent second-half save from United keeper David de Gea and Romain Saiss heading over when he was well placed to do much better 11 minutes from time.
Podence had a shot on the turn blocked near the end, although Wolves’ marathon season appears to have caught up with them and they, more than most, will be thankful for the two-week break that lies ahead.
Sixty-two years ago on Thursday, United suffered the biggest tragedy in their history when eight players were among the 23 passengers who died when the team plane crashed in Munich following a refuelling stop on the way back from a European Cup tie in Belgrade.
Two hours before kick-off on Saturday, fans from both sides gathered for the annual ceremony under the Munich memorial outside the stadium.
Just before the teams emerged from the tunnel, United’s Munich anthem, Flowers of Manchester, was played and as the teams emerged a massive banner proclaiming “We’ll Never Die” was dragged across the Stretford End. After 58 minutes, applause rang round the ground in honour of the victims.
Sir Bobby Charlton was the only survivor of the crash present at the game, although Jimmy Murphy, son of manager Sir Matt Busby’s assistant Jimmy, was also at Old Trafford.
There had been calls for a walkout by United fans after 68 minutes.
As it turned out, a handful of supporters left at the allotted time but it was hardly noticeable amid a capacity crowd.
Far more conspicuous was the absence of executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward.
Wolves fans sang “There’s only one Ed Woodward” at one point, although there was no repeat of the singing from United fans which has attracted such controversy in recent games.
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