Old Gold | Wolves’ memorable Man United meetings

Wolves are heading on the road for their first fixture of 2022 on Monday – fingers crossed – as Bruno Lage’s men are due to face Manchester United at Old Trafford.

It will be the 16th time the teams have gone head-to-head the Premier League since Wolves returned to the top-flight of English football back in 2003 (plus a couple of League Cup fixtures and four FA Cup clashes, including one real stand-out!) and there have been some memorable meetings in that time.

Ahead of the new year’s visit to Manchester, we’re looking back through the past 20 years of fixtures between the teams and picked out some of the most memorable moments as the old gold take on the Red Devils.

#1 | 27th August 2003 | Man United 1-0 Wolves

Wolves’ first meeting with Manchester United in almost 20 years came in just the gold and black’s third match back in the top-flight of English football. Having lost to Blackburn Rovers and Charlton Athletic in their opening two games back (and conceding nine goals) facing an undefeated United was always going to be a struggle for Dave Jones’ men.

However, Wolves more than held their own at Old Trafford. After falling behind to John O’Shea’s header early doors, Henri Camara squandered two glorious chances to earn an unlikely point for the visitors as Wolves put in a performance which deserved huge credit.

#2 | 17th January 2004 | Wolves 1-0 Man United

Having gone close to earning a result on the road at the start of the 2003/04 Premiership season, Wolves went one better five months later as they claimed victory over Man United at Molineux. One of the most memorable matches in what turned out to be a fairly forgettable first campaign back in the top-flight of English football, Kenny Miller’s measured finish stunned the reigning champions and gave Wolves a much-needed boost in their battle against relegation.

Although Sir Alex Ferguson’s men dominated much of the contest, it was the hosts who went closest to taking the lead when former Red Devil Paul Ince struck the post. Moments after Ince’s effort, United saw Rio Ferdinand limp out of action – in his last appearance before serving an eight-month ban – to be replaced by Wes Brown.

Michael Oakes had to be in supreme form between the sticks to stop Paul Scholes from close-range. But scenes of mass celebrations were to follow from those in gold and black as Miller picked up the ball from a loose United throw, evaded Brown with ease, and then slid a cool finish beyond Tim Howard. Jubilation ensued.

#3 | 15th December 2009 | Man United 3-0 Wolves

Although not memorable for the result, the game will be remembered for the fact Mick McCarthy changed 10 players from the side which had beaten Tottenham Hotspur three days previously and with a meeting with relegation rivals Burnley a few days later clearly in the mind.

Despite seeing players such as Matt Hill, George Friend, Greg Halford, Segundo Castillo and Stefan Maierhofer introduced into the starting 11, Wolves were able to hold out for almost half-an-hour before falling behind. That was until Wayne Rooney slotted from the penalty spot after Ronald Zubar handled Darron Gibson's corner, before Nemanja Vidic nodded in a second for United just before the break, and Antonio Valencia fired in a third following good work by Dimitar Berbatov.

Wolves were fined £25,000 by the Premier League for McCarthy’s decision to field a ‘weakened team’ at Old Trafford. However, that sort of penalty would not be handed out today, with the rules being changed at the Premier League AGM the following June, after clubs decided that managers can field any combination of players that are named in their initial 25-man squad.

#4 | 6th March 2010 | Wolves 0-1 Man United

#5 | 6th November 2010 | Man United 2-1 Wolves

#6 | 5th February 2011 | Wolves 2-1 Man United

It was a night to remember for George Elokobi at Molineux in 2011 as the left-back scored what he believed to be twice, although the second was claimed to have been turned over the line by Kevin Doyle, as then-bottom of the table Wolves got the catalyst they needed to avoid the drop, while condemning United to their first league defeat of the season.

The game appeared to be heading the way of the visitors right from the off when Nani drilled the ball inside the near post after just three minutes, but Elokobi caught the United defence sleeping just moments later when he got on the end of Matt Jarvis’ cross following a well-executed short-corner routine. The winger took the set-piece quickly, and with the United defence not prepared, the ball was played back to Jarvis who picked out the Cameroonian superbly who met the cross with a full-blooded header.

Although United tried their best to regain the lead, it was the hosts who found a winning second just before the break when Nenad Milijas’ free-kick from the right was aimed towards Doyle and Elokobi, who both claimed to have got their heads to the ball before it flew into the net. In spite of who got the final touch, it didn’t matter one bit to the supporters inside Molineux who were joyous in their celebrations.

#7 | 10th December 2011 | Man United 4-1 Wolves

#8 | 18th March 2012 | Wolves 0-5 Man United

#9 | 22nd September 2018 | Man United 1-1 Wolves

Wolves were back in the Premier League in the summer of 2018, leading to a run of seven meetings between themselves and Manchester United over the proceeding 18 months. The first of those was on the road at Old Trafford in the sixth match of the season, in which a gold and black side which had lost just once in the opening two months of the campaign played out a first top-flight draw with the Red Devils since 1984 – the last time the clubs had met before an almost 20-year absence.

It was a bright start for Wolves, with the hosts having to rely on David De Gea, who was forced into making three saves to deny Raul Jimenez, Ryan Bennett and Willy Boly, but it was United who took the lead on 18 minutes when Paul Pogba teed up Fred with a clever piece of control for the Brazilian to fire in his first Premier League goal.

However, Wolves got the goal their play deserved as they levelled early in the second-half, when Joao Moutinho curled a stunning effort into the top corner having been set up by Jimenez on the edge of the United penalty area. Both sides had chances to win the contest, but the draw was enough for Wolves to secure their first ever Premier League point at Old Trafford on their fifth attempt.

#10 | 2nd April 2019 | Wolves 2-1 Man United

Wolves invited Man United to Molineux in April 2019 for a Premier League meeting less than three weeks after a stunning FA Cup quarter-final contest between the sides. In what was one of THE most remarkable games – not just against United – in recent memory, it was the hosts who came out on top thanks to Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota’s goals. But unlike in the cup victory, which saw the hosts take a two-goal lead before seeing their advantage halved late on, Nuno Espirito Santo’s men had to fight from behind this time, when Scott McTominay’s sweet strike gave United the lead after just 13 minutes.

It appeared United were determined to ensure their cup defeat wouldn’t be repeated, and when the midfielder had drilled his side in front, Wolves’ task looked a hefty one, but the character which had shone throughout the team’s return to the top-flight following a six-year absence was on show yet again, as Molineux experienced another memorable night under the lights.

Before the equaliser arrived, Wolves gave their opponents a warning strike when Willy Boly slipped in Raul Jimenez, but the Mexican sliced wide. Yet moments later, the striker was picked out by Joao Moutinho and set through his strike partner Diogo Jota and the Portuguese slammed past De Gea. Wolves’ tails were up and although Matt Doherty and Leander Dendoncker spurned chances for their side to take the lead, the winning goal arrived after United went down to ten-men when Ashley Young was shown a deserved second yellow card.

Moutinho was heavily involved again as the midfielder’s cross caused all sorts of problems and despite Jimenez and Dendoncker attempting to force the ball home, the decisive touch came off Chris Smalling, who could only watch as the ball trickled over the line.

#11 | 19th August 2019 | Wolves 1-1 Man United

Wolves made it four games unbeaten against United for the first time since 1980 thanks to a Ruben Neves stunner and a Rui Patricio penalty save, which maintained the gold and black’s unbeaten start to their 2019/20 Premier League and Europa League campaigns.

Anthony Martial opened the scoring for the visitors when a quick attack cut through Wolves and the Frenchman was picked out by Marcus Rashford who fired an effort high into the back of the net. Wolves stepped up their game in the second period, with Raul Jimenez striking the post before the ball went behind for a corner. From the resulting set-piece, Neves was picked out by Joao Moutinho on the edge of the box, and he took a touch before curling an unstoppable effort beyond David De Gea and in off the underside of the crossbar.

There was more drama yet to come when Paul Pogba went down inside the Wolves box, and although the midfielder stepped up to take the spotkick himself, Patricio stood up to the task. Diving to his right, the goalkeeper was able to get a strong hand to the ball which was fired straight down the middle of the goal to keep the effort from crossing the line.

#12 | 1st February 2020 | Man United 0-0 Wolves

#13 | 29th December 2020 | Man United 1-0 Wolves

#14 | 23rd May 2021 | Wolves 1-2 Man United

The start of 2020 saw Wolves paired against United in the FA Cup third round, and after a lacklustre goalless draw at Molineux, the replay at Old Trafford wasn’t much better, with neither side doing much to prove they deserved a place in the next round. Those displays were repeated in the league with a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford in saw Portuguese stars Bruno Fernandes and Daniel Podence handed their debuts for United and Wolves respectively.

That was, however, the last point Wolves have earned from the Red Devils, having lost both games in the 2020/21 season, although Romain Saiss came agonisingly close to earning a point in Manchester in December, before Marcus Rashford struck in added time. Fast forward five months, and Wolves were ending their campaign at home, in a game which was to be the final outing under Nuno Espirito Santo, and the first since March 2020 where supporters were able to attend inside the stadium – albeit only 4,500.

Two days prior to the match, it was announced the head coach would be leaving the club following the fixture, bringing an end to four fabulous years at the helm. Despite the boisterous welcome which greeted Nuno and the team before kick-off – with more supporters outside the ground than were allowed in it – the circumstances surrounding the game were unable to inspire the men in gold and black to give their boss a fairytale ending, as Nelson Semedo’s first goal for the club came in between Anthony Elanga’s header and Juan Mata’s penalty, to secure the three points for the visitors.

#15 | 29th August 2021 | Wolves 0-1 Man United

The most recent meeting between the sides came in the third outing of the subsequent Premier League season, as Wolves, now under the tutelage of Bruno Lage were looking for their first top-flight win of the season having fallen to narrow 1-0 losses to Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur in their opening matches – despite putting in performances which were more than worthy of three points.

It was to be a case of déjà vu against United, with a third one-goal defeat in succession and one which, on the run of play, was probably the least deserving for Lage’s men, who were outstanding throughout. A performance full of attacking intent and good opportunities for the hosts went unrewarded, after Mason Greenwood struck ten minutes from time to send the points back to the north west.

The front three of Adama Traore, Francisco Trincao and Raul Jimenez all had chances to put Wolves ahead, but the biggest opportunity of all just happened to fall to a centre-back in Romain Saiss, who was picked out by a Joao Moutinho free-kick and directed a header towards goal, but somehow was denied by David De Gea, before the Moroccan’s rebounded effort was blocked by the United goalkeeper from point-blank range.

Wolves were made to rue their missed chances for the third game running, as United claimed the winner in controversial circumstances. The hosts felt Ruben Neves was fouled by Paul Pogba in the build-up, before Greenwood worked an opening past Marcal and fired in, via a big touch from the right hand of Jose Sa.

Old Gold #MUNWOL