When Wolves decided to move on from the club’s most successful manager in a generation, there was trepidation that his replacement Bruno Lage would struggle
“We want to go forward, to play in a different way. I do not know if it is better or worse, it is just my idea. We need to be a more competitive team, a better team.”
Speaking ahead of his Premier League bow, Bruno Lage’s philosophy was clear, but executing a plan that had eluded his predecessor Nuno Espirito Santo appeared ambitious.
Wolverhampton Wanderers scaled the heights under Nuno, but a malaise which set in when football went behind closed doors, looked to have engulfed fans, players and perhaps most worryingly of all, the coach himself.
What was once a vibrant counter-attacking team, became lethargic in possession, unusually poor defensively and seemingly without a plan outside of ‘pass to Adama Traore and hope’.
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The decision to move on from Nuno was met with widespread condemnation outside of Molineux and even those inside were divided.
Such was his impact at the club, many felt the Portuguese deserved time to arrest the issues which hampered his final season.
No Raul Jimenez and no fans, along with the departures of Matt Doherty and Diogo Jota, meant it would always be a transitional campaign.
There were even murmurings that Nuno would look to change the style which had first taken them to the Premier League and then to back-to-back seventh placed finishes.
But that brave new style never appeared even close to materialising. And so by the time Wolves announced his departure there was a feeling the time was right.
Lage – on paper at least – looked a major risk however. The former Sheffield Wednesday and Swansea assistant had just one head coach’s role on his resume, an 18-month stint with Benfica which encompassed a highly unlikely league title, recognition as Primeira Liga’s Best Coach and ultimately, a dismissal.
And with three defeats from their opening four league games of the season, neutrals could be forgiven for thinking that his reign at Molineux has got off to a wobbly start.
Against United in particular, Bruno Lage’s side played with the kind of swashbuckling nature that is almost a complete contrast to the football seen last season.
Perhaps most surprising about Wolves’ start is the transformation in players who looked to be checked out in the final months of Nuno’s spell in the dugout.
Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho had looked flat for far too long, the former failing to live up to his talents, while the latter appeared to have finally allowed age to catch up with him.
But four games in, they are the driving force behind a side who – according to xG at least – have been the third best in the entire top-fight.
Remarkably, Wolves only netted their first goals of the league season against Watford last time out, that was despite registering a staggering 57 shots in the three opening weeks of the season.
Lage will be all too aware that the only statistic that truly matters is the final score, but with their next three against Brentford, Southampton and Newcastle there is a feeling points could quickly match the level of performance.
Even at this early stage, Wolves look to be on the right path and Lage’s bold revolution appears closer than ever.