MAN UTD 4, WOLVES 1
It may take Manchester United some time to fully exorcise the demons of their Champions League exit at Basel, but the Red Devils began the process with some wicked football to defeat Wolves at Old Trafford.
This was the first time United have scored more than one goal in a Premier League game since the first day of October.
United may still not be firing on all cylinders, although there were clear signs that that they can overcome their chronic injury worries and stay hard on the heels of neighbours City.
Going forward, United had the Luis Nani-Wayne Rooney axis to thank for their goals with the pair both scoring twice.
It was Rooney’s first goal in open play in three months, while Nani had not scored in the league since September 24th.
Largely solid at the back and composed in midfield, United regained that spark of imagination up front.
Phil Jones again proved to be the magnificent heart in the centre of the team, while midfield partner Michael Carrick used the full range of his passing to good effect.
Wolves were always second best, despite a superb second-half performance by left-winger Matt Jarvis which caused United right-back Chris Smalling some awkward moments.
United’s lively start was rewarded in the 17th minute when Nani opened the scoring after being found by Antonio Valencia’s crossfield pass on the left edge of the Wolves box.
Accelerating across the edge of the penalty area, he found the bottom right corner of the net with a crisp right-foot shot from 20 yards.
Rooney’s goal drought ended 10 minutes later when the England striker finished another crossfield move with a goal.
Smalling, marauding down the right, flicked the ball inside to Carrick, who picked out Nani on the far side of the penalty area.
The Portuguese winger rolled the ball inside for Rooney to score with a measured right-foot shot from the edge of the ‘D’.
Wolves were back in the game two minutes after the interval.
Jarvis beat Smalling on the left and his cross from the by-line was met perfectly by Steven Fletcher as he rose above Patrice Evra at the far post to head home from six yards.
But any thoughts of a Wolves revival were ended nine minutes later with United’s third goal.
Another surging run through the middle by Jones led to him finding Valencia to the right of the Wolves penalty area, and his cross into the centre was guided home by Nani from six yards.
United completed the scoring in the 62nd minute.
Another accurate Valencia cross from the right saw Rooney score with a glorious swivelling right-foot shot from 12 yards out on the left side of the box.
Both United goalkeeper David De Gea and his Wolves counterpart Wayne Hennessey made a number of fine saves as United cut City’s lead at the top of the table to two points.
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said: “We worked our socks off at Basel on Wednesday and got nothing. Today we worked our socks off and got something.
“Our attacking play was good and we could have scored more goals. We are getting to an important part of the season and that performance puts us in good fettle.
“The important thing is to get our game right and get to New Year’s Day in the frame. If we do that we have a chance.”
Wolves boss Mick McCarthy said: “All the hype about Manchester United’s demise is nonsense. They will come back again and again because they have such good players.
“Sir Alex Ferguson is the best manager there has been. He has been under pressure for so long, but he is better than anyone else at changing team after team and still getting the best results.”