MAN UTD 1, WOLVES 0
An injury-time goal from Marcus Rashford beat Wolves and lifted Manchester United to second place in the Premier League.
Rashford’s 13th goal of the season proved lucky after it took a massive deflection off Wolves’ centre-back Romain Saiss to finally break the spirited resistance of the visitors.
And it moved the Reds to within two points of leaders Liverpool in this incredibly unpredictable season. Not long ago they were languishing in 14th place.
It looked as though it was going to be another frustrating night at Old Trafford where home displays have been indifferent.
While United had by far the best away record in the Premier League, before this victory they were only in 16th place in the home standings.
This was only the third home league win from eight games which have yielded only 11 points from a possible 24.
This was not one of the Reds’ better nights, but it was a case of the result being of more importance to the performance.Embed from Getty Images
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer praised the never-say-die spirit, saying: “The players showed a fantastic attitude. It was a great result, and we showed a desire to keep going and create a bit of luck we earned by our desire to keep going.
“It was a good way to end the year.”
Solskjaer was delighted with Bruno Fernandes’ assist for the goal.
He said: “Bruno has played better games, but he is always in and around and creates chances.
“He kept going and has that knack of always looking for a pass.”
Solskjaer had sympathy for Wolves who had one less day to prepare believing it was an advantage they played on Saturday lunchtime as to Wolves on Sunday evening.
Rashford admitted it was not one of United’s better displays, saying: “It’s the deciding goal. Probably not the most beautiful but we will take what we can get and take the three points and move on.
“Today was tough but we expected a tough game but managed to get over the line.
“The full-back had cramp a few minutes before so I just had it in my head I wanted to go at him and make him chop and turn and just see if I could make something happen and thankfully in the end we got a deflection.
“It means a lot. We were a little disappointed that we didn’t play as well as we wanted to or could have but it is three points and, no matter how scrappy it was, we will take it.
“For us, we can’t look too far ahead. We are a team that is still doing a lot of work on ourselves. We have to take it one game at a time but if we can keep finding ways to win like this we will see where we are at the end of the season.”
United made six changes to the side that drew 2-2 with Leicester last time out.
Paul Pogba, Edinson Cavani, Mason Greenwood, Alex Telles, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Nemanja Matic won recalls.
The players standing down were the injured Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw, Fred, Scot McTominay, Daniel James and Anthony Martial.
Ki-Jana Hoever made his first Premier League start for Wolves in one of four changes for the visitors from Sunday’s 1-1 draw against Tottenham.
The former Liverpool defender joined Rayan Aït-Nouri, Vitinha and Maximilian Kilman in the starting line-up.
Before the match, United remembered former player John Fitzpatrick who has died aged 74. The Scot made 147 appearances for the Reds between 1963/73.
Wolves made a bright start but early efforts from Pedro Neto, Vitinha and Ruben Neves were comfortably dealt with by David De Gea in the opening 13 minutes.
The visitors thought they had come close to breaking the deadlock midway through the half when Saiss’ header was turned on to the bar by De Gea following Joao Moutinho’s free kick, but it would not have counted as he was flagged for offside.
It took United until the 34th minute before they forced a save from Rui Patricio who did well to block a shot from Bruno Fernandes from inside the six-yard box following Mason Greenwood’s teasing cross to the far post.
Wolves had another great chance, a near-post flick from Saiss which forced an acrobatic save from De Gea. It followed Neto’s free kick.
United, disappointing in the opening period, made a change for the restart as Telles was replaced by Shaw at left back.
And with no change in fortune offensively, United made a second change mid-half swopping Martial for Greenwood.
Edinson Cavani had the ball in the net with 21 minutes remaining but he had strayed offside after Eric Bailly headed on Shaw’s corner.
Centre-back Saiss forced another great save from De Gea but he, too, was offside as neither side was able to find a route to goal.
Pogba unleashed a drive from 25 yard which forced a decent stop from Patricio.
De Gea was called upon again to beat out an angled shot from Alt-Nouri with Harry Maguire completing the clearance.
With the game heading for a goalless draw, it would take something exceptional to break the deadlock.
And it came in the third of five added minutes when Rashford found the net with a huge slice of good fortune as his shot only beat Patricio after it took a huge deflection off the unlucky Saiss who had just been named television man of the match.
Credit to Fernandes’ great crossfield pass to release Rashford for the goal which was followed by some of Wolves’ players lying on the turf in disbelief at this unlucky break as their efforts deserved some reward.