Manchester United needed veteran Paul Scholes to save their blushes as they laboured to a scarcely deserved win over Wolves. The closely fought win ensured that the Devils climbed to the top of the premiership.
The Old Trafford outfit took the field without their talismanic striker Wayne Rooney who was sidelined through an injury suffered on international duty, much to the displeasure of Sir Alex. Dimitar Berbatov was given the responsibility of leading the line and Darren Gibson was given a rare start in a five-man midfield alongside Nani; who was back after a three game ban.
It was Wolves who had a brighter start though. Kevin Doyle found himself in space inside the United box but his scuffed effort went a fair bit wide. United fashioned an early chance of their own with the ever improving Valencia shooting just wide from distance.
Berbatov then got in the thick of things, running the channel judiciously and putting in a decent cross which Gibson failed to make the most of as his tame effort was collected by Hahnemann.
The game meandered along as neither side threatened to break the deadlock. Mic Mcarthy’s side had the best opportunity of the half to go ahead but an unmarked Stephen Ward headed straight at Van Der Sar despite being completely unmarked.
In the second half, United looked to have regained some semblance of composure as they kept possession outside the Wolves half without any successful penetration.
Gary Neviile replaced Wes Brown after half-time as United looked to utilise their club captain’s crossing ability. Gibson released Patrice Evra who should have put United in the lead but the left back shot meekly and was denied.
The United boss was looking on impatiently for a goal. And with less than twenty minutes to go, it arrived courtesy the most experienced man on the pitch for United. Nani’s poor cross from the right side wasn’t properly dealt with by Craddock and Scholes nipped in, side-stepped a challenge and slotted past a hapless Wolves keeper.
The goal brought up a century of premier league goals for the United legend and it couldn’t have come at a better time for the Red Devils.
Both teams then combined to miss a series of guilt edged chances with Mame Diouf being the major culprit for the devils as he sent a free header six yards out over the bar following Gary Neville’s cross. But United were let off the hook late-on when a completely unmarked Vokes slashed high over the top from five yards out which was followed by him sending a header narrowly wide.
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER OF THE MATCH
Luis Antonio Valencia (Manchester United)
Another impressive display by the Ecudarian winger, who is turning out to be one of the buys of the season.
TheHardTackle’s REFEREE REPORT CARD
Name: Peter Walton
Grade: A – Excellent.
The ref allowed the match to flow and was largely in control of proceedings, but at the same time had no major decision to make.
WOLVERHAMPTON 0-1 MANCHESTER UNITED
Venue: Molineux Stadium
Wolverhampton Line-up: (Hahnemann, Craddock ,Ward (Keogh 84) ,Berra, Zubar, Foley, Guedioura (Ebanks-Blake 84) , Henry , Jones, Jarvis (Vokes 88) , 29 Doyle)
Cautions: Craddock (60′), Jones (61′)
Sent off: None
Manchester United Line-up: Van der Sar, Evra, Ferdinand, Brown (Neville, 45’), Vidic, Nani (Park, 74’), Scholes, Carrick, Gibson (Mame Diouf, 62’), Valencia, Berbatov)
Manager: Sir Alex Ferguson
Cautions: Vidic (58’)
Scorers: Scholes (72’)