Wolves capitalise on United’s unsure defending to rally to victory


Goals from Diogo Jota and a Chris Smalling own goal saw Wolves come from behind to defeat ten-man Manchester United and enhace their Europa League hopes while denting their opponent’s push for the Champions League at Molineux.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made six changes to his United side which included starts for Romelu Lukaku and Jesse Lingard in attack.

Wolves drafted star striker Raul Jiminez back into the line-up after their surprising 2-0 defeat to Burnley on Saturday.

It was the visitors who dominated opening proceedings and could have opened the scoring after just five minutes. Diogo Dalot, who was starting in a more advanced role at right winger, found space on the flank and curled in a delicious ball onto the head of Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian’s effort was straight at Rui Patricio in the Wolves goal but United fired an early warning shot and already looked more imposing than in their 2-1 FA Cup quarter-final defeat in March.

The energetic start led to the opening goal of the game with 13 minutes on the clock and a first goal for the United for Scott McTominay. Luke Shaw and Lingard combined well on the left before linking with Fred. The Brazilian swiftly moved the ball left to McTominay who took aim from 25 yards and drove his effort low, hard and out of Patricio’s reach into the bottom corner.

United threatened to run riot early on and almost doubled their lead three minutes later when a Lukaku cross found Lingard who had nobody within five yards of him. The England attacker guided his header into the far corner but Patricio was equal to it, clawing the effort away to keep the hosts in the game.

Nuno Espirito Santo cut an agitated figure on the touchline but his bright team soon found their rhythm. Diogo Jota and Jiminez put more pressure on the United back three. It was through what has become a classic combination for the Wanderers that they equalised, albeit with some help from some lackadaisical United ball retention.

David De Gea’s slack pass put Fred in trouble inside his own final third. The Brazilian was quickly robbed of possession and Jiminez slipped a clever ball into Jota who rifled his shot low and hard past De Gea to restore parity. It was no more than the hosts deserved after responding so well to falling behind.

United looked rattled and Wolves consistently upset their back three after netting the equaliser. A defensive mix-up in the United penalty area saw the ball drop to Leander Dendoncker at the near post but he blazed his effort well over the crossbar, much to the relief of a shaken Red Devils defence.

Neves then tested De Gea from range with a ferocious volley after United failed to clear their lines following a Wovles free-kick.

Lukaku could have restored the visitor’s lead right on the stroke of half time but he dragged his shot well wide. He and Paul Pogba played a slick one-two to give the Belgian space inside the Wolves penalty area but his shot from his weaker right foot trickled past the post.

Both teams traded cautious build ups in the second half before United carved the first clear-cut opportunity of it. Lukaku delivered an inviting cross from the left which Pogba flicked on into the path of McTominay. The Scot stooped  low for the header and sent it goalward but Patricio was equal to it.

Ashley Young then received his marching order as Mike Dean showed his 100th red card. Young took a heavy touch after collecting a Fred pass before lunging in on Jota. The England full-back was shown a booking not long before his sending off for a late challenge on the same protagonist. It was the first time the former Aston Villa man had been dismissed in his 236 appearances for United.

Moments later Solskjaer’s troubles almost worsened when Jiminez squeezed between De Gea and Shaw to steal the ball and leave United’s keeper in no man’s land. His cross would be too deep and the visitors would survive another unconvincing defensive moment.

The hosts had a meek penalty shout with 20 minutes to play when Jota collided with Dalot but it appeared the former lost his balance and the clash was nothing more than incidental.

Wolves capitalised on their man advantage and got their noses in front with 76 minutes on the clock and again United’s hesitant defending played a part. A Jonny cross was met by Jiminez who leap with Phil Jones but did not get the desired contact. The ball bounced inside the six yard box where Dendonker put huge pressure on Chris Smalling and the former Fulham defender bundled the ball past De Gea.

The visitors pushed for a leveller to secure a vital point. Pogba and substitute Anthony Martial both lashing efforts off target.

De Gea had to twice prevent further defensive embarrassment for United. First he was at full stretch to claw away a Smalling clearance that was heading into the bottom corner before using his feet to clear after Smalling and Victor Lindelöf failed to deal a ball into the box.

Ivan Cavaleiro brushed off Lindelöf and raced into the box but smashed his effort against the crossbar with only De Gea to beat.

Mike Dean’s final blow on his whistle condemned Solskjaer to his third defeat in four games and left United with work to do if they are to steal the final Champions League spot as Wolves down them for the second time in a fortnight.



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