WOLVES 0, MAN UNITED 5.
MANCHESTER United moved four points clear of their noisy neighbours as the bookmakers suddenly made them favourites for the Barclays Premier League title following their five-goal demolition of Wolves at Molineux.
The Reds produced a top-drawer performance and sounded an ominous warning to Manchester City who once held a seven-point advantage. What a dramatic turnabout.
City have played one less match, but their catch-up fixture on Wednesday is against Chelsea.
Suddenly the pressure is on City who cannot afford to slip which United’s title defence appears to be gathering momentum by the week having now amassed 25 points from a possible 27, even though their European campaign was dismal.
And the psychological mind games continued with Sir Alex Ferguson downplaying the victory against the Premier League’s bottom club.
“It was not a great performance, but adequate. The scoreline makes it look a comfortable victory, but it wasn’t,” explained Sir Alex Ferguson.
The Reds’ manager views City’s match as a “big game” with Chelsea battling for a top-four spot.
“It is important we look after ourselves and win our games and eventually we hope that takes us where we want to go,” he continued.
United had lost two of their previous three visits to Wolves which is why the fixture was viewed with a little trepidation.
The match also marked the return of Antonio Valencia following a six-week absence with a hamstring injury.
And the winger showed why Ferguson said he could be an “important player” in the run-in.
Valencia cut through the Wolves defence with some scintillating wing play scoring once and providing assists for two further strikes.
It was not until midway through the opening half that United made the all-important breakthrough from an unlikely source as central-defender Jonny Evans scored his first goal for the club.
Wayne Rooney’s deep corner was played back across the face of goal by Michael Carrick for Evans to sweep home from six yards.
The match swung firmly United’s way when Wolves defender Robert Zubar was sent off for a second booking.
United punished Wolves scoring two further goals late in the opening period.
The first one was a superb solo effort from inside his own half and ending with a terrific strike high into the top corner of the net.
Then in stoppage time Valencia turned provider cutting the ball back for Danny Welbeck to slot home.
Rooney was denied by a fine save by Wolves’ keeper Wayne Hennessey early in the second half before United struck twice again to find themselves 5-0 up in little over an hour.
Rafael da Silva provided the delivery for Javier Hernandez to glance home a header.
Valencia then played a delightful return pass with Welbeck before squaring the ball to Hernandez to fire into the roof of the net.
It was hardly surprising United switched off in the final half hour when Wolves ought to have found the net.
United keeper David de Gea saved well from Michael Kightly and Steven Fletcher while Darren Ward’s header from a Kightly corner flashed just wide.