After being unceremoniously dumped out of the Uefa Europa league on Thursday night, United faced the difficult prospect of a trip to relegation embroiled Wolverhampton Wanderers, conquerors of the reds in last seasons corresponding fixture. United were looking to open up a 4 point gap at the top of the table, with City facing Chelsea on Wednesday night in their game in hand, and league form suggested Wolves were in for a tough afternoon. The returning Antonio Valencia was thrust straight back into the side, following the Ecuadorian’s blistering form earlier on in Feburary prior to his injury, in a United line up packed with attacking intent.
Fighting for their premier league lives, Wolves began brightly with Matt Jarvis on the left flank in particular posing some problems for young United right back Rafael. Despite Wolves’ bright start, they failed to really threaten David De Gea’s goal, with only Kevin Doyle’s left footed shot testing the Spaniard in a cagey opening. It was the reds who struck first however, as Rooney’s corner from the left was steered back across goal by Michael Carrick to an unmarked Jonny Evans, allowing the Northern Irish defender to volley home his first goal for United. They never looked back. A suicidal lunge by full back Ronald Zubar on the 40 minute mark saw the defender handed his second yellow card and his marching orders.
A devastating 5 minutes ensued, firstly, a vintage United counter attack launched by Rooney, was continued by Valencia, who rampaged up the touchline into the Wolves area and steered home into the far corner giving the reds a vital two goal cushion. The points were secured on the brink of half time, as once again the superb Valencia got to the by line, before cutting back to the unmarked Welbeck, making no mistake in slotting past a helpless Hennesey and a hapless Wolves.
With goal difference a potential factor, United were looking to add to their tally in the second half against a Wolves side devoid of confidence, but not of fight. Hernandez, a focus of criticism at times this season, got himself a much needed goal nodding home Rafael’s cross in the 6 yard area for United’s 4th. The removal of Michael Carrick for Paul Pogba failed to dent United’s rhythm, as Hernandez quickly doubled his tally, once again the beneficiary of a master class in wing play from Valencia, whose delightful interchange with Welbeck freed the winger, before crossing on a plate to Hernandez who volleyed home with style as a huge scoreline seemed on the cards.
Credit to the home side must be given however, as they rallied in the closing stages of the game, twice forcing De Gea into smart saves, firstly from the impressive Kightly, and then again from Fletcher. It was United though who looked more likely to add to their glut of goals, with Valencia again wrecking havoc, only for both Welbeck and Hernandez to both be guilty of squandering promising opportunities. A convincing 5-0 score line and dominant performance however will be enough to send out a serious message to the rest of the league that once again, United are turning on their best form at the crucial stage of the season.
DDG – 6 2 great saves in second half.
Rafael – 7 Supplemented Valencia well, struggled against Jarvis.
Ferdinand – 7 Strolled through the game.
Evans – 8 First goal and confident performance.
Evra – 7 Composed defensively and driving force attacking wise.
Valencia – 9 MOTM Complete performance from fine player.
Carrick – 6 Dominated when United had extra man.
Scholes – 7 Fine form continues.
Welbeck – 7 Drifting off the flank constantly and finished well.
Rooney – 7 No goal but always a threat.
Hernandez – 7 Two well taken goals.
Smalling – 6
Pogba – 6
Fabio – 5