Manchester United 1 (Rashford 90) Wolves 0
A much-changed Wolves side ended 2020 on the losing side having fallen to a 1-0 loss in their Premier League clash against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
In a game which was devoid of many clear-cut chances, most of which for Wolves fell to the brilliant Romain Saiss, United were able to steal the three points at the death through Marcus Rashford, who found space inside the Wolves penalty area before lashing a shot into the back of the net via a deflection off the unfortunate Moroccan captain.
Having come just over 48 hours from their 1-1 draw with Tottenham Hotspur, Nuno made four changes to his line-up, bringing in Vitinha and Ki-Jana Hoever for their first Premier League starts, as well as Rayan Ait-Nouri and Maximilian Kilman, as the head coach switched back to a five-man defence. Although unusually, Saiss moved into the centre of the back three with Conor Coady playing out on the right to compensate for his left footed teammates.
There were no early nerves from the young Wolves players as both Vitinha and Pedro Neto tested David de Gea with goalbound shots from the edge of the United penalty area.
Adama Traore, starting in a front two with Neto, used his strength to win the ball for Wolves in a dangerous position as he dispossessed Eric Bailley on the byline, and the Spaniard cut a pass back to Ruben Neves, who also got a shot on target from long-range, but de Gea was able to push the ball clear of danger.
After scoring the equaliser in their draw with Spurs, Saiss was hoping to open the scoring at Old Trafford when he got his head on the end of a Joao Moutinho free-kick, but his looping effort was only able to hit the top of de Gea’s crossbar.
For the first half-an-hour, Wolves dealt quite comfortably with the United attack, but were reliant on Rui Patricio to keep them in the game when the Portuguese number one was in the right place at the right time to make a point-blank save to deny international teammate Bruno Fernandes. The midfielder was found at the far post by Mason Greenwood, but Patricio was able to deny his countryman from a matter of yards out.
It was de Gea’s turn to pull off a save to deny the opposition taking the lead when he pushed clear a flicked effort from Saiss who had connected onto a Neto free-kick which had been whipped in towards the near post.
Half-time: Man United 0 Wolves 0
It was a slow second-half for both sides, with neither team being able to break down their opposition, but Nuno attempted to swing the game in his side’s favour by brining Daniel Podence off the bench in place of Vitinha.
But it was the hosts who had the best opportunity to open the scoring with just over 60 minutes on the clock when Rashford was played over the top of the Wolves defence, but the England man could not keep his header down from flying over Patricio’s crossbar.
United did have the ball in the back of the net, but fortunately for Wolves, the assistant referee’s flag was up for an offside against Edison Cavani, who had tapped the ball in from close range after the ball was flicked towards goal from a corner.
Wolves’ staunch defence were beginning to be breached by United as the second-half wore on, and it took another good save from Patricio to hold onto a goalbound Paul Pogba shot from 20 yards out.
Inside the final ten minutes of the half, Wolves had their best chance to get ahead, as Ait-Nouri was found on the overlap, but having taken the ball in his stride as he raced towards goal, the French youngster let fly, but de Gea was able to get down and push the ball away and just beyond the reach of Silva.
With the game into its five added on minutes, Wolves’ defence were finally beaten as Rashford took aim from inside the penalty area, and via a massive deflection off the otherwise exquisite Saiss, the ball flew past Patricio, to see United snatch the three points.
Full-time: Man United 1 Wolves 0
United: de Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Bailly, Maguire, Telles (Shaw 46), Pogba, Matic, Greenwood (Martial 64), Fernandes, Rashford, Cavani.
Unused subs: Henderson, Tuanzebe, Fred, Mata, McTominay, James, Van De Beek.
Wolves: Patricio, Hoever, Kilman, Coady, Saiss, Ait-Nouri, Neves, Moutinho, Vitinha (Podence 55), Traore, Neto (Silva 68).
Unused subs: Ruddy, Semedo, Richards, Marques, Cundle, Otasowie, Corbeanu.
Referee: Jonathan Moss