Manchester United 1-0 Wolves: Rashford wins it at the death
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 29: Harry Maguire of Manchester United and Rayan Ait-Nouri of Wolverhampton Wanderers during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Old Trafford on December 29, 2020 in Manchester, United Kingdom. The match will be played without fans, behind closed doors as a Covid-19 precaution. Photo by Sam Bagnall - AMA/Getty Images)

Marcus Rashford’s late winner bailed Manchester United out of a lacklustre display as they saw off Wolves 1-0 at Old Trafford. 

Rashford’s late winner was met with a sigh of relief by the men on red who were clearly feeling the effects of a congested Christmas period. 

Story of the game

A tense opening ten minutes were graced only by a few speculative efforts from either team causing little to know distress to the respective goalkeepers. 

The action threatened to slightly spark in the 22nd minute when a free kick from out wide was flicked on by Romain Saiss onto the crossbar, past the flailing arms of David De Gea.  

Minutes later, United’s patient build up was millimetres away from being rewarded. Nemanja Matic whipped in a delightful ball in search of the onrushing talisman Edinson Cavani, who couldn’t quite get his head the ball. 

After another period of midfield conflict, United created the best chance of the half as Mason Greenwood picked up the ball on the right-hand side of the box before curling a ball towards the back post. Bruno Fernandes had managed to creep around the outside of Ki-jan Hoever, his marker, to fire an awkwardly struck volley at Rui Patricio from point blank range. 

Wolves then produced their best chance of the half as some good movement from Saiss allowed him to meet a wide free kick and flick an effort goalward, however, De Gea’s reflexes served him well as he was able to tip the ball wide for a corner. 

The second half started very much like the first finished, flat. United were more than happy passing it around their midfield ignoring any possibility to probe the Wolves back line. Wolves themselves showed glimpses of threat on the counter, but even the danger man Adama Traore looked toothless. 

The first effort of any kind in the second half came in the 63rd, yes 63rd, minute of the game as United’s constant and often unproblematic passing resulted in a chipped ball through by Fernandes to Rashford, but the winger couldn’t direct his header on target. 

United thought they’d broken the deadlock with just 20 minutes remaining as Cavani dispatched the ball after a scramble in the box, however he was deemed to be comfortably offside. However, appeals quickly sparked for a handball on Connor Coady. VAR, however, decided not to award a penalty which would have almost certainly been given a few months prior. 

United continued this pressure over the coming minutes as Fernandes found Paul Pogba 25 yards from goal. The latter then struck a fierce effort low to Patricio’s left, however the Portuguese goalkeeper was equal to it. 

Minutes later, Pogba turned provider following a slick one-two with Fernandes on the edge of the box before finding Anthony Martial, but he couldn’t keep his first-time effort down much to the dismay of the men in red. 

Wolves were able to fashion a rare chance for themselves as Rayan Ait-Nouri got in behind the defence down the left before flashing an effort across goal. However, the angle was always against him and De Gea saved comfortably. 

Just when the game looked over, disaster struck for Wolves. A hopeful ball over the top found Marcus Rashford who cut in from the right-hand side of the box before firing an effort which, thanks to a deflection, wrong-footed Patricio to give United a dramatic winner. 

What this means

The win lifts United up to second in the table as they keep up the pressure on league-leaders Liverpool. Wolves, however, find themselves in twelfth as they look to manage a squad ravaged by injuries. 

Next up for United, a visit from an inform Aston Villa side while Wolves travel south to strugglers Brighton.