Manchester United beat Wolves without Marcus Rashford

Man United beat Wolves 2-0 thanks to strikes from Anthony Martial and Alejandro Garnacho as they go four poins ahead of Liverpool in fifth, with a Champions League spot firmly in their grasp

  • Anthony Martial found the back of the net first in the 32nd minute of the game to set them on their way
  • Alejandro Garnacho, 18, extended Manchester United’s lead in stoppage time after coming on as a late sub
  • Re-live all the action from Old Trafford as United clinch a vital win in their quest for the Champions League 

Everyone needs an Alejandro Garnacho in their life. 

The shock of dyed blond hair, the exhilaration of acceleration, the impetuosity of youth: it gives you hope. And he gives Manchester United life. Not that he is the answer, as such. The 18-year-old Argentine is raw, a work very much in progress. And yet the roar that accompanies his introduction to a game indicates that people believe in him. He gives credence to the idea that United might be on the right lines.

It’s a symbolic phenomenon rather than something substantial, for now at least. And yet here, having been introduced on 82 minutes, he provided the gloss on a largely drab afternoon. What looked to be a slightly laboured 1-0 win – nothing wrong with that after defeats to Brighton and West Ham – became a comfortable 2-0 victory in the 94th minute, a moment of joy sending every United fan home happy.

Defending a corner, United cleared to Bruno Fernandes. One touch from him and the dyed-blonded hair was scampering into space, ball at his feet, turning Nelson Semedo – the lone Wolves defender back – this way and that.

He stopped, checked back and the went with his right foot after all, trying to curl the ball around keeper Dan Bentley. It was probably the wrong option and the ball spun off the post. And yet, fortune favours youthful instinct. The spin and trajectory of the ball saw it bounce along the goal-line and eventually veer into the net.

Manchester United beat Wolves 2-0 at Old Trafford on Saturday afternoon to get their top four charge back on track

It was Anthony Martial who found the back of the net first in the 32nd minute of the game to put Erik ten Hag’s side ahead

Alejandro Garnacho extended Manchester United’s lead in stoppage time to see them win the game 2-0 at Old Trafford

It was a counter attack goal straight from the Ole Gunnar Solskjear text book. Which was fitting, as the stir around the directors’ box was for Solskjaer, serenaded from The Stretford End and the most in-demand selfie of the day, on his first return to Old Trafford since departing last season for Ralf Rangnick. As such, it was hard therefore to avoid comparing this team to his. Solskjaer’s team didn’t win a cup but were third and second in his full seasons on charge. Ten Hag is fourth.


Man Utd (4-2-3-1): De Gea 6; Wan-Bissaka 6, Lindelof 7, Varane 6 (Maguire 81), Shaw 7; Casemiro 6, Eriksen 6 (Fred 81); Antony 7, Fernandes 8, Sancho 5 (Garnacho 82); Martial 7 (Weghorst 69)

Subs not used: Malacia, Dalot, Pellistri, Butland, Elanga

Goals: Martial (32), Garnacho (90+4)

Booked: Shaw, Garnacho, Casemiro 

Wolves (4-4-2): Bentley 8; Nelson Semedo 7, Dawson 6, Kilman 6, Gomes 5 (Bueno 62); Matheus Luiz 6, Neves 7, Lemina 6 (Traore 75)Pedro Neto 4 (Hwang 46); Matheus Cunha 6 (Podence 61), Costa 4 (Jimenez 78)

Subs not used: Jose Sa, Collins, Sarabia, Joao Gomes

Booked: Costa, Dawson 

Referee: John Brooks (Leicestershire)

That said, Solskjaer’s team were broadly set up to play on the counter attack against the best teams, Ten Hag’s maybe have more chance long term of competing with the best on their own terms, dominating the ball. He may be laying deeper foundations than Solskjaer’s short-term fix.

A major trophy secured, on course for Champions League qualification, what’s not to like about Erik ten Hag’s first season at Manchester United. The 7-0 defeat to Liverpool aside. And the collapse at Sevila in the Europa League. Oh, and perhaps the 6-3 defeat at Manchester City. We’ll ignore the 4-0 at Brentford: that was early days. BC in fact: before Casimero. An unlikely FA Cup victory over Manchester, especially if it were to deny their rivals the treble, would mark this down as the best season since Sir Alex departed ten years ago.

Yet, as with Garnacho, they remain a work in progress. 

This match was largely uninspired though credit Wolves Mario Lemina and Ruben Neves with their midfield work in frustrating United. 

The introduction of Adama Traore late on almost provided the late equalising twist. There was perhaps too much caution, not enough thrust from Wolves. For United playing like a team unsure of themselves after two defeats.

That said Bruno Fernandes was swaggering in the freedom afforded him at the top end of a midfield three. On 32 minutes, he played the perfect pass for Antony to chase. He reached the ball, pushed it on and anticipated the charge of onrushing keeper Dan Bentley, neatly squaring the ball into the path of Martial for 1-0.

What to make of Antony? The assist was commendably generous and on some levels he was a constant nuisance. It’s just he reminds you of the Eric Morecombe line to Andre Previn: ‘I’m playing all the right notes – not necessarily in the right order.’ 

There was the movement and acceleration to be in exactly the right place to nod home Luke Shaw’s dinked cross on 30 minutes. Except that he inexplicably just let it bounce off his forehead and soar over the bar, when all it needed was a downward inflexion on the neck to direct it into an open goal.

Ten Hag (right) gave his young matchwinner a ruffle of the hair at the end as United strengthened their top four hopes

Martial ended a goal drought when he punished Wolves to put United ahead midway through the first half on Saturday

There was an acknowledgement of his service on the day from his manager when he was taken off in the second half

It was a dismal afternoon in the Manchester sunshine for Wolves striker Diego Costa, who struggled to have any impact at all

Then there was the exhilarating run down the right on 45 minutes, cutting inside having Toti in his wake and putting both Wolves’ centre halves on the back foot. The pass just needed to be rolled into path of Jadon Sancho. 

Yet Antony chose another touch, to turn back inside, delay again and finally pass to Martial, who was marked and smothered immediately. As one wag, tweeted, Antony now has as many assist in the Premier League this season as he managed in the two games he played for Ajax at the start of the campaign: two

United’s second half was notable for it failure to build on the foundation of a one goal lead. There were a succession of corners, there was the expected midfield stability from Casemiro and Eriksen. What there wasn’t was a potent threat or a build-up of momentum. It was 73 minutes when Jadon Sancho provided something of the former. 

Fed by substitute Wout Weghorst he attacked the box, turned inside, got his shot away only to see Bentley’s one-handed save turn it away for a corner. Likewise, Bentley had to be smart to turn away Fernandes’ strike from the edge of the box on 82 minutes. And again, once more one handed, on 90 minutes from Antony. He was less fortunate with Garnacho’s strike.

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