Wolves 1 (Semedo 39) Manchester United 2 (Elanga 14, Mata (p) 45)
It was not to be a fairytale ending to his Wolves career for Nuno Espirito Santo, as the head coach was unable to end his final game in charge with the three points, with the season drawing to an end in front of 4,500 supporters at Molineux.
Nelson Semedo’s first goal in gold and black got Wolves back on track having fallen behind to Champions League-bound Manchester United early on, but a penalty just before the break saw Nuno’s men go a goal down once again.
Despite a spirited second-half display, it was just not to be for the hosts, who finished their third consecutive season in the Premier League in 12th position.
In his final team selection, Nuno stuck with his tried and tested back five, as Romain Saiss came in for Maximilian Kilman, while Rui Patricio and Leander Dendoncker also returned to the starting line-up from the 11 who fell to defeat at Everton four days previously.
It was the hosts who started the brighter of the two sides, with Fabio Silva, Nelson Semedo and Rayan Ait-Nouri playing in front of Wolves supporters for the first time in their gold and black careers, as the fans inside Molineux made their voices heard.
Trying to get their noses in front, Wolves hit the front foot early on, with Adama Traore using his pace to get clear of the United defence, and closing in on Dean Henderson’s goal, the Spaniard drilled his effort wide of the left post.
Despite Wolves being on top, it wasn’t all one-way traffic and United had a chance of their own to take the lead, as Anthony Elanga was picked out in space on the edge of the penalty area and having turned smartly, he could only fire high into the North Bank.
It didn’t take long for United and Elanga to get his first goal in professional football. The Red Devil’s Academy graduate being found at the far post by Daniel James, and his bullet header from six yards out flew past Patricio.
Wolves were trying their all to get back on level terms, and it was Traore who continued his sparkling form from midweek to terrorise the left side of United as he left Alex Telles in his wake to get a pinpoint cross into the visitor’s box, but unfortunately for the side in old gold, Silva jumped up highest and was unable to place his header on target – with Dendoncker arguably better placed just behind the forward.
Traore’s afternoon ended early when the winger went down inside the United penalty area after an innocuous challenge. Although his appeals for a penalty were waved away by referee Mike Dean, the damage had already been done to the Wolves man, who had to be replaced by Willian Jose.
Nuno’s men were growing in confidence and beginning to put United on the back foot, and they got their just rewards five minutes before the break. After Joao Moutinho played in a surging Dendoncker, he found Silva down the right. Semedo made an overlapping run and having been played in by the youngster, managed to direct the ball into the bottom corner of the net with his first touch.
Moments before the half-time break, United found a way back into the game when the visitors were handed a controversial penalty by VAR – their 11th of the season. Saiss was adjudged to have clipped Donny van de Beek inside the box, despite the referee not originally awarding the spot kick and Juan Mata sent Patricio the wrong way to regain the lead for his side.
Half-time: Wolves 1 Man United 2
As they did at the start of the first-half, Wolves came out of the blocks fighting, with Jose bringing a first save of the afternoon out of Dean Henderson when he got up highest in the box from a Semedo cross, only for his header to land comfortably into the grasps of the former Sheffield United stopper.
It took a deflection to deny Neves moments later. Following patient build-up by the hosts, the ball eventually found its way to the Portuguese who set himself on the edge of the box, and having gone for goal, United were able to deflect the ball wide.
The visitors continued to put Henderson’s goal under threat, with Neves letting fly from distance, but his dipping effort, which looked to have caught the United goalie out, just didn’t drop soon enough and narrowly missed over the corner of crossbar and post.
Although the second period began to slow in pace and intensity with neither team testing their opposite keepers, Wolves were still trying to get back into the game by taking pot-shots at the United goal, but the defenders in white shirts were getting their bodies in the way.
As the game entered five minutes of added time, Morgan Gibbs-White let fly from 20 yards out, but the midfielder’s low drive just missed the wrong side of Henderson’s left post. Moments later, Willy Boly took aim from distance after moving into acres of space in the middle of the park, but his shot was too high and missed over the crossbar.
On the full-time whistle, the Wolves supporters sang Nuno’s name in recognition of the work he had done with the club for the past four years, before the players marked the end of the campaign with a lap of honour to round off another memorable season for the old gold.
Full-time: Wolves 1 Man United 2
Wolves: Patricio, Semedo, Boly, Coady, Saiss, Ait-Nouri (Marcal 82), Neves, Dendoncker (Gibbs-White 60), Moutinho, Traore (Jose 27), Silva.
Unused subs: Ruddy, Sondergaard, Hoever, Kilman, Vitinha.
Man United: Henderson, Williams, Bailly, Tuanzebe, Telles, Matic, van de Beek, Diallo (Shoretire 82), Mata (Hannibal 82), James (Fish 90), Elanga.
Unused subs: Grant, Lindelof, Wan-Bissaka, McTominay, Greenwood, Rashford.
Referee: Mike Dean