Report | Wolves 0-1 Man United

Wolves 0 Manchester United 1 (Rashford 76)

Wolves ended 2022 with their first defeat under Julen Lopetegui despite a spirited performance against Manchester United at Molineux on New Year’s Eve.

Marcus Rashford’s second-half goal, which saw the England forward combine with Bruno Fernandes before firing the ball into the back of the net from close range, proved to be the difference on an afternoon where Wolves were more than a match for their opponents from the north west.

Ahead of kick-off, all around Molineux stood to applaud the legacy left by Pele, after the football great had passed away two days previously.

Despite Wolves beginning the contest in bright fashion, it was the team in white who posed the greatest threat in the early stages. Firstly, Matheus Nunes – the only change from the Boxing Day win over Everton – had to be alert to deflect Casemiro’s header over Jose Sa’s crossbar, before Alejandro Garnacho fired well over the bar from the edge of the Wolves area.

Nelson Semedo was indebted to Sa to spare his blushes just after 15 minutes when the full-back played a short pass back to his keeper which was intercepted by Garnacho, but Sa spread himself wide to deny the United teenager one-on-one.

Molineux rose once again in applause on 16 minutes to commemorate the life of Liberty Harris, a young supporter who tragically lost her life in a road collision a few weeks prior to the match.

Wolves were growing in confidence as the half wore on and had a few chances on David de Gea’s goal, with the best opportunity falling to Diego Costa who was played in on goal following a bursting run by Nunes, but the Spaniard’s effort was saved by his countryman. Moments later, Nathan Collins was at his best to make a last-ditch tackle to stop Anthony Martial from close range.

After Ruben Neves’ powerful effort was deflected behind by Tyrell Malacia, it was United’s chance to open the scoring, and Sa was once again called into action. The Portuguese did well to get his hands behind an Antony header from a matter of yards out after the forward got free inside the penalty area.

There was still time for another scare in the Wolves penalty area as the game entered the one added minute. Martial flicked on Garnacho’s cross to Antony at the far post, but his low diving header was somehow stopped from going over the line by a combination of Sa and his post. However, the offside flag was then raised against the United winger.

Half-time | Wolves 0-0 Man United

Lopetegui made a switch at half-time to bring Adama Traore on for Costa, and within the opening minute, the winger was already proving to be a thorn in United’s side. The Spaniard picked up possession and raced through the barrage of white shirts, but his cross to the far post towards Hee Chan Hwang was headed clear by Raphael Varane.

Wolves had to overcome a spell of United possession and chances early in the second-half, as Antony twice tested the gold and black shirts, but Collins stood up well to a strongly-stuck shot before Sa pounced as the winger looked to strike from an angle.

Neves came mightily close to putting his side ahead from a free-kick just before the hour mark. Casemiro picked up a booking for a foul on Podence as he raced through, but it was the Wolves captain who was given the responsibility from the set-piece 30 yards out from goal. His effort was on target, but De Gea got across his goal well to push the ball away.

Semedo’s last taste of action before he was replaced by Jonny, who came on for his first minutes since an injury he picked up against Leeds last month, was an excellent piece of defending which saw him deflect a cross off Luke Shaw and out for a goalkick which denied United what looked like a certain goal.

Wolves were pushing to put themselves ahead as the half progressed, and it was through Neves – in a similar position to his free-kick chance minutes earlier – where they looked dangerous. But this time, the midfielder’s effort could only find the United wall.

But it was the visitors who took the lead moments later. Rashford was played into space down the left, played a neat one-two with Fernandes to get between Jonny and Collins, before firing the ball beyond Sa.

The England forward wasn’t done there. He thought he had put his side two up after bundling the ball over the line with just over five minutes remaining. The ball had bounced back to him off Sa, but following VAR intervention, the goal was disallowed for handball.

Wolves were pushing everything forward in search for an equaliser, but it left them open at the back, but fortunately for Lopetegui’s side, Fernandes was caught in two minds as United broke with three on two, and Sa was able to make a comfortable save as his Portuguese compatriot looked for goal.

With five minutes added on, Wolves piled bodies forward, and it took a deflection off Varane to stop Raul Jimenez from finding the back of the net from a perfectly whipped in cross by Jonny. The Mexican was then denied from the resulting corner as his header was palmed off the line by De Gea; the Spanish keeper doing enough to earn his side all three points.

Full-time | Wolves 0-1 Man United

Wolves | Sa, Semedo (Jonny 65), Collins, Kilman, Bueno (Toti 73), Neves, Nunes, Moutinho (Ait-Nouri 72), Hwang, Podence (Jimenez 80), Costa (A. Traore 46).

Unused subs | Sarkic, B. Traore, Hodge, Guedes.

Man United | De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Shaw, Malacia, Casemiro, Eriksen (Fred 60), Fernandes (Maguire 90), Antony (Elanga 90), Garnacho (Rashford 46), Martial (Van De Beek 81).

Unused subs | Heaton, Lindelof, Williams, Mainoo.

Referee | Robert Jones