Wolves were the visitors at Old Trafford for the second time this month, after the reds last gasp victory over Wanderers in the carling cup expectations were high that United would once again prevail. A mysterious virus had chipped away at an already injury ravaged United squad, with the injury list containing up to 7 first teamers.
This paved the way for the much maligned Owen Hargreaves to return to the United starting line up after over 2 years on the sidelines. However, his comeback would only last 5 minutes, as much to the dismay of the united faithful, Hargreaves limped down the tunnel having tweaked a hamstring muscle. You cannot feel anything but sympathy for Hargreaves, who has gone through hell in the past 2 years, and has the quality (when fit) to be a real force in the United midfield. However questions must be asked as to the rationale behind selecting Hargreaves, given that he has made no appearances for the reserves prior to today, and played no football for almost 2 years.
Things didn’t go much better for United as the game progressed, with the reported virus appearing to take it’s toll on some of the players on the pitch, as Wolves looked the more threatening side going close on a few occasions. At the other end of the field United were way off the ball, with Bebe in particular failing to capitalise on his excellent performance in the week, and proving to be very wasteful. As a frustrating first half drew to a close, United snatched what was a flattering lead through Ji Sung Park, after some brilliant play from Fletcher who twisted and turned before finding the killer ball to Park, who coolly finished under the keeper.
As has often been the case with United this season, we appeared uncertain as to how best to deal with being a goal ahead, and we began the second half playing as poorly as we have all season. John O Shea, Bebe and Obertan in particular were frequently sources of frustration, constantly giving the ball away cheaply and inviting Wolves pressure. This pressure came to fruition on the hour mark, after a comical mix up between Fletcher and O Shea, Wolves broke quickly allowing United old boy Sylvain Ebanks Blake time to turn in the area, and fire home the equaliser. As United pressed for the winner, the Old Trafford crowd grew more frustrated, as attack after attack broke down with Hahnemann being relatively untroubled. It wasn’t until the introduction of the evergreen Paul Scholes 15 minutes before time that United kicked into life. United instantly looked transformed, with the Wolves defence being turned frequently, with the pace of Chicharito becoming a real cause for concern. This inevitably forced Wolves deeper and deeper, allowing United to maintain pressure, and build attacks with Patrice Evra marauding down the left flank. Typically, United won the game in style, as with 2 minutes of stoppage time remaining, Scholes found Park on the touchline, who jinked his way inside, before unleashing a pin point shot into the bottom corner. Queue ecstasy.
Although the manner of United’s victory was largely unimpressive, the 3 points were monumental given the circumstances. With many players injured or unwell, and being minutes away from slipping further off the pace, victories like today are what wins titles. Now our attention inevitably turns to the massive (no pun intended….okay a little bit intended) derby against City on Wednesday night. Hopefully with Giggs, Nani, Berbatov and Carrick all back in contention, we can strike another dagger blow into the heart of the city revolution, and distance ourselves from our bitter blue neighbours.