Wolves 1, Manchester United 2
Anthony Elanga and Juan Mata scored the goals as Manchester United ended their Premier League campaign unbeaten away with a win at Wolves.Embed from Getty Images
Elanga hit his first goal for the Manchester United as they took an early lead before Wolves lost Adama Traore to a hamstring injury in the first half.
Nelson Semedo levelled matters before Mike Dean awarded a penalty to United after a VAR advised him to review his decision which allowed Juan Mata to put United in front again just before the break.
Hannibal Mejbri and Will Fish made their debuts for the club as they finished well, keeping Wolves out in the second half to finish their league campaign unbeaten away from home – only the fourth side to do that in the top flight (with 12 wins and 7 draws) after Preston (1888-89), Arsenal (2001-02) and Arsenal again (2003-04).
United also extended their away record of 26 games unbeaten on the road in all competitions as they finished on a high ahead of the Europa League final.
Match winner Juan Mata waved away questions about his future at the club, insisting that the focus was now on the Europa League final in Gdansk on Wednesday.
He said: “I thought it was a very good performance, a lot of changes of course but the young players showed they can play at this level.
“We have a very important game on Wednesday and this is a good preparation physically and mentally.
“I don’t know [about my future], we have an important game in three days and I feel I can continue playing for many years.”
Outgoing Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo had tears in his eyes after his final game in charge of the club was the first with fans after the pandemic robbed them of being able to watch their team.
“I promised I would stay strong but it was emotional
“It means a lot [to have fans back], it means that football is back. The first game of football that we love with fans.
“Everyone will have a break now, to be with their families.
“I’m very proud.”
United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was delighted with the performance and heaped praise on the young players who had earned the win today.
He confirmed there were no new injuries but admitted that captain Harry Maguire may not be able to prove his fitness in time for the Europa League final.
He said: “I’m very happy with the performance. We took our chances and got the win we deserved.
“This season hast been the greatest but what an achievement to go unbeaten away from home.”
Solskjaer picked out Anthony Elanga for special praise after he scored his first goal for the club, saying: “He could have had two before that goal, he’ll remember that goal and he’s got a bright future ahead of him.
With match winner Juan Mata out of contract at the end of the season, Solskjaer provided an update on talks with Mata about a new contract to stay at United but admitted that the Spanish midfielder may want to play more.
“We are talking to Juan. We’ll sit down but it depends what he wants as well – I don’t given him enough game time.”
Solskjaer made ten changes for their last game before United travel to Gdansk for the Europa League final.
First half goals by Anthony Elanga and Juan Mata prove enough for Manchester United to win at Wolves
Only Axel Tuanzebe retained his place in the side while it looked like injured captain Harry Maguire was going to miss out on the final as he wasn’t named on the bench.
There was applause for Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo who was in charge of his final game in charge of the club before leaving although there were some boos from the home fans as both teams took a knee in solidarity with the Black Lives movement against racism.
Tuanzebe undercooked a pass to Nemanja Matic which was intercepted by Adama Traore but the Wolves winger sent his shot wide at a blustery Molineux.
Alex Telles’ cross field pass was aimed at Anthony Elanga but the winger’s poor first touch saw him lose the ball with just Rui Patricio to beat if he could control it.
Elanga got a second chance at goal but sent his effort well wide after good work by Daniel James.
But he got it right at the third time of asking with bullet header after getting on the end of James’ curling left wing cross from six yards out after 13 minutes.
It was the teenager’s first goal for the club and Eric Bailly could have doubled it 4 minutes later from a corner but sent his header wide with Fabio Silva doing the same from a Traore cross shortly afterwards as the blustery conditions affected both sides.
Wolves suffered a blow when they lost Traore to a hamstring injury when he went down after 25 minutes.
It was typical of the injury-plagued season that Wolves had and he as replaced by Willian Jose.
And Wolves got the equaliser with Leander Dendonker threading Fabio Silva through – the winger squared the ball to Nelson Semedo who made no mistake from 7 yards out for his first goal for Wolves.
Brandon Williams was denied by a great save by Rui Patricio while Telles skied the follow-up after Wolves failed to clear it.
There was more VAR controversy in injury time when Romain Saiss appeared to trip Donny van de Beek in the area – Mike Dean was sent to the pitch side monitor to review it himself.
After lengthy deliberations he gave the penalty to the derision of thousands of fans in the stadium.
Juan Mata stepped up and and hammered his first Premier League goal since April 2019 past Rui Patricio into the left corner with the Portuguese goalkeeper going the other way. It was his 51st United goal and possibly his last in the Premier League for United.
Willian Jose’s header was an easy save for Dean Henderson after he met Semedo’s lofted cross with a header after half time while Ruben Neves curled a shot wide of the back post.
James fluffed his lines, sending a shot wide after Amad Diallo had found him with a great through ball shortly before the hour mark.
Morgan Gibbs-White replaced Dendoncker after 61 minutes in Wolves’ second change of the match and Rayan Ait-Nouri’s cross was too close to Henderson as the United keeper gratefully jumped on it.
Fabio Silva was twice denied by Tuanzebe after Neves’ cutback invited a strike on goal. The block was crucial and showed just how hard United were working to keep Wolves at bay.
Diallo’s deflected strike was saved by Rui Patricio before he and Juan Mata were replaced by Hannibal Mejbri (for his debut) and Shola Shoretire while Marcal replaced Ait-Nouri.
Elanga fired over the bar as United sought a third but the game was made safe after Will Fish made his debut for James in the 95th minute.
GOALS – Wolves 1, Manchester United 2
Wolves 0, Man Utd 1: 13. Anthony Elanga got on the end of an early left wing cross by Daniel James and headed it in firmly past Rui Patricio from 6 yards out.
Wolves 1, Man Utd 1: 39. Nelson Semedo made no mistake with his finish inside the far post after he was given a square pass by Fabio Silva who was sent clean through by Leander Dendoncker.
Wolves 1, Man Utd 2: 45+4. Juan Mata stepped up to take a spot kick and sent into the left corner, seeing Rui Patricio the wrong way after referee Mike Dean reviewed his original decision not to give the penalty after Romain Saiss tripped Donny van de Beek.
MATCH STATS – Wolves 1, Manchester United 2
Wolves: Patricio, Boly, Coady, Saiss, Semedo, Dendoncker (Gibbs-White 61), Moutinho, Ait-Nouri (Marcal 83), Neves, Traore (Jose 27), Fabio Silva
Wolves subs not used: Ruddy, Hoever, Vitinha, Kilman, Sondergaard
Booked: Ait-Nouri 41 (foul on Anthony Elanga); Dendoncker 41; Boly 76 (foul on Amad Diallo); Gibbs-White 90+6 (foul on Brandon Williams)
Goal: Semedo 39
Man Utd: Henderson, Williams, Bailly, Tuanzebe, Telles, van de Beek, Matic, Diallo (Shoretire 82), Mata (Mejbri 82), James (Fish 95+5), Elanga
Man Utd subs not used: Grant, Lindelof, Rashford, Greenwood, Wan-Bissaka, McTominay
Goals: Elanga 13; Mata 45+4
Referee: Mike Dean