Traore’s terrifying first contact was the act of an agent of chaos that Tottenham needed


Although still common in Scotland, the tradition of the first foot has died out somewhat in recent years in the north of England. But Manchester United may well have made a poor attempt to bring about a resurgence on Monday night.

The tradition of the first foot dictates that in order to beget good luck for the coming year, the first person to step into your house after the year has started has to be a tall, dark-haired man. And this tall, dark-haired man has to come with gifts – often a lump of coal and some whiskey.

Wolves manager Bruno Lage certainly fits the first part of this bill, so it made sense to have him as your first visitor to Old Trafford in 2022. But a giveaway?

Well, not exactly. Instead of a lump of coal, he brought with him a Wolves side who rewrote the Premier League scoreboard in binary code.

From the start, Lage’s team controlled the tempo of the New Year’s celebrations, like that skull at a party that thinks it’s a Spotify DJ. Then, as the festivities seemed to run out of steam, Lage finally presented the Premier League’s most wonderful harbinger of chaos, Adama Traore.

Good luck? Maybe next year, United.

Traore only played 24 minutes at Old Trafford, and much of what he did in those 24 minutes left you in awe. But it was absolutely no coincidence that the scoreboard read 0-0 when it stepped on the grass and 0-1 when it came out.

One of his very first interventions was one of the most mind-boggling. He picked up the ball on the right, looked like he was about to skin Raphael Varane alive and then… pulled it out for a goal kick.

It was completely inexplicable. But it was a seed of doubt sown in United’s minds. A franchise threat that Wolves previously lacked. It was terrible, but knowing that the next attempt might not be was also terrifying.

And here’s the problem with Traore: if you focus on what’s wrong, then you’re wrong. Instead, rejoice in the confusion it brings.

That’s certainly what Traore did for the rest of his time on the pitch, running Luke Shaw to shreds and finally, finally scoring the game-winning goal the visitors more than deserved.

In the first half Wolves had more ball, made more passes, more crosses, had more corners and had 14 shots against United’s four.

Still, they hadn’t made it count – and given that most of those shots came from long distances or mediocre angles, one could argue they didn’t deserve it.

In the second, they were nowhere near as dominant as United switched formation to deal with excruciating midfield control from their visitors.

But when Traoré replaced Francisco Trincao, there was renewed hope that something wonderful would happen, that Traore would finally find a way to create moments of real peril.

In the 82nd minute, he did. Traore recovered the ball in the same space he had faced Varane. This time, with Shaw in front of him, he didn’t waver.

The Spaniard accelerated towards the signing, leaving Shaw in his wake. His cross was not a delicious whipped delivery. He was first met by Phil Jones as a Wolves player.

But Traore had released the ball wide, isolated his man and pushed Wolves straight into the danger zone. Jones’ cross fell on Joao Moutinho in the middle of the ‘D’ and the United defense suddenly rushed like a first foot on the icy way back from a party at Hogmanay.

The little Portuguese magician, who had bent the game to his liking from the start, seized the opportunity.

It is highly doubtful that Wolves scored the goal and the hugely important victory without Traore on the pitch. In an excellent team without being sharp, Traoré made the difference.

If the wolves lost him now, they would lose a lot. Lots of frustration, lots of bad ball control times, yes. But also a potentially revolutionary agent of chaos, a man who can do things with ease that other footballers simply cannot conceive of.

For Tottenham fans who are hoping he will show up in N17 for £ 20million, there might be a little warning in this performance as well.

To think that he will arrive at Hotspur Way and suddenly transform into an ultra-cohesive King in the tight control of Antonio Conte is a fantasy. With the speed and intensity with which he does what he does, that just isn’t possible.

With Traoré, there will always be moments of inexplicable strangeness. But there will always be that possibility that he does so much damage in the opposition’s backline that they fall to the ground in a shaky, confused wreckage, begging you pretty much to score.

Wolves saw the value of this once again on Monday night. And Spurs certainly could have done something similar against Watford on Saturday. Since Gareth Bale left at the end of last season, they haven’t had that game-changing presence with busy solo races.

If Traore will implement his specific brand of football trouble in the Midlands or North London on February 1, we’ll just have to wait and see. Wherever it is, we will continue to watch and rejoice.

Through The law of Joshua


More from Planet Football

11 of Mick McCarthy’s Best, Funniest Quotes: “Some people can fuck themselves”

Where are they now? Wolves’ last XI before Fosun’s takeover in 2016

Can you name the Spanish players with the most PL appearances?

Five players who could leave Tottenham in January: Alli, Doherty …

Previous Betty White's agent sets the record straight on cause of death
Next Software update gives Whirlpool smart ovens an air fry mode