Following their untimely exit from the Uefa Champions League, United looked to respond in style with the visit of relegation strugglers Wolves, victims of 2 late goals in 2 matches at the Theatre of Dreams last season. With United playing before league leaders City, this provided the reds the perfect opportunity to put some pressure on their local rivals ahead of their crunch game against Chelsea. However, the Black Country club were the first side to defeat the reds last season at Molineux, and were hopeful they could capitalise upon some poor United form to spring an unlikely upset. Given the recent injuries to Dimitar Berbatov and Javier Hernandez, Danny Welbeck made a timely and welcome return to the United line up, as well as Michael Carrick who was much missed during the ill fated game in Basel during the week.
In recent weeks, United have struggled to put the ball into the back of the net, with Wayne Rooney facing a record drought for the club having gone 8 games without a goal prior. There was no sense of United licking their wounds however, as they set about controlling the game and pressuring a creaking Wolves back four, with Jones and Carrick showing their superior quality in the middle of the park. It only took 17 minutes for United to take a deserved lead, as Nani, playing in his unprefered left wing role, cut inside past several challenges before drilling the ball home at the near post, letting out some frustration in the process. Things quickly got better for the reds, as Rooney doubled the lead 10 minutes later in similar fashion, feigning to shoot, before firing the ball home past a culpable Wayne Hennessey, and almost putting United well out of sight.
With United in firm control of the game, there was a sense there would be a rampant performance in the second half against a sorry looking Wolves outfit. To their credit however, the visitors were not going to easily roll over, and gave themselves an unlikely life line back into the game just minutes after the restart, the impressive Matt Jarvis’ left footed cross nodded home by Steven Fletcher at the back post. What seemed to be a comfortable afternoon now appeared to be turning into another nervous one, as Jarvis continued to give Chris Smalling a difficult time, using both feet well to play some dangerous balls into the penalty area. Before Wolves could really get a foothold into the game however, United snatched it back away from them again through Nani, the Portugese winger diverting some fine work from Antonio Valencia home, all but guaranteeing the three points for United. Valencia continued to run right down the right hand side for United, as the Ecuadorian winger began to discover some of his best form which has been lacking in recent weeks, and it was his cross on the hour mark which found Rooney at the back post, which the England striker lashed home on the volley to round off a fine individual and team performance.
With the points sewn up, United were afforded the rare luxury of introducing Zeki Fryers to the mix, handing him some real first team experience in the Premier League, as the reds continued to attack with gusto in the final 3rd of the match. A marauding Phil Jones run nearly culminated in a 5th for United, only for a timely last ditch block from Steven War preventing substitute Macheda from getting on the score sheet. The damage had been well and truly done for United, and Fergie will have been very pleased with the players response to the midweek defeat, with goals for Rooney coming at a time where we need him the most. United now face a busy Christmas period, with 2 away trips to QPR and Fulham next week followed by home fixtures v Wigan and Blackburn, games the reds must win if they are to keep the pressure on City and really press for the title.
DDG – 6 Kicking was off, few sloppy clearances, overall quiet afternoon.
Smalling – 5 Given the run around by Jarvis for much of the game.
Ferdinand – 7 Looked back to his best.
Evans – 6 Performed well in place of Vidic, needs to continue.
Evra – 6 Defensive lapses still blight his performances.
Valencia – 7 Magnificent second half display.
Jones – 7 Strong and energetic midfield performance.
Carrick – 7 Bossed the game with ease.
Nani – 8 Superb individual brilliance throughout.
Rooney – 8 MOTM Constantly in space and making things happen. Two fantastic goals.
Welbeck – 6 Unlucky to not get on score sheet.
Macheda – 5 Contributed nothing of note.
Young – 5 Brief cameo.
Fryers – 6 Handled Premier League debut well.