Not even the heart-warming return of Sir Alex Ferguson to Old Trafford could inspire Manchester United to victory against Wolves as the Reds were held to a 1-1 draw.
Fred's maiden strike was cancelled out after the break by Joao Moutinho's well-taken equaliser and it brought to an end United’s winning three-match run.
There was an emotional welcome-back standing ovation for Sir Alex when he took up his customary seat in the director’s box at Old Trafford. The last time he’d watch the Reds was against Arsenal last April, just days before being rushed into hospital for emergency brain surgery.
The club’s most successful manager in history has been gradually recovering since and returning for this match was a comforting sight for United fans, ahead of kick-off.
The former manager raised both his hands and clapped his supporters in response to their ovation before a trademark double fist pump as good as said: ‘Let’s get down to business.’ But it was last season’s Championship title winners who got off to the better start and it made a bit of an uncomfortable early watch for Sir Alex and the Old Trafford support.One of Ferguson's buys, David De Gea, has been back in superb form and United needed it from the Spaniard. A shot on the turn in the box from Raul Jimenez, after just seven minutes, was kept out by De Gea and then he had to perform another stunning stop to deny Willy Body as the centre-back thundered in a powerful header.
It was the steady rock United needed to survive the Midlanders' positive start and it gave the Reds the platform to take a lead after 18 minutes. Wolves cleared a United attack but only as far as Paul Pogba. The Frenchman’s first touch was quick and incisive as it surprised the Wolves defence, who looked like they were expecting a shot. Instead it smartly set up Fred who drove home with his right foot to record the Brazilian’s first goal since joining from Shakhtar Donetsk in the summer.
United had to be on our toes against a side who were looking so dangerous on the counter attack. But chances at both ends became very limited after the goal until a late free-kick just before the interval whistle from goalscorer Fred. Having seen an Alexis Sanchez set-piece wasted earlier, Pogba appeared to take command of the situation and lined up ready to fire in a right footer. But with Wolves' defence and keeper set up for an effort from the French midfielder, it was Fred who nipped in to strike a ferocious drive. Wolves keeper Rui Patricio may have been stunned but he swiftly reacted to paw away Fred’s effort to grab a second.
United were certainly looking back on that save from Patricio with regret eight minutes into the second half when Wolves levelled the match. The hosts had numbers back and appeared set up to stop the attack, in the 53rd minute, but the visitors carved out an excellent reply. Helder Costa had been a handful for Luke Shaw all afternoon and he took on the full-back down the right flank. It looked like Shaw had got the better of him and ushered him out of play but Moutinho managed to get in a cross. Jimenez controlled and then laid a ball back for Moutinho to crash a shot past De Gea.
The praise that has been heaped on the attractive-playing Wolves side this season, and last, was looking very well deserved and their equaliser gave them added assurance. After three away victories on the bounce for the Reds in the Premier League and Champions League the confidence was beginning to sap as the promoted side enjoyed themselves.
Pogba almost restored the lead with a rasping long-range shot just before manager Mourinho decided to shake up his side. In the 62nd minute, he brought on Juan Mata and Anthony Martial to replace Alexis and Fred. Jesse Lingard went close when his 67th minute shot was tipped over the bar at the Stretford End by Patricio and Lukaku powered a header wide from a brilliant Pogo cross. The Belgian, however, was ruled offside but it was certainly a positive response by the Reds. Wolves, though, were not intimidated and hit back with a chance from Neves that again produced a save from De Gea.
Wolves started to slow the game down and were taking every opportunity to break up the match and ruin United’s late rhythm as the Reds attempted to mount a frantic search for a winner with the seconds ticking away. There were few scares for Nuno Espirito Santo's side, however, with Adama Traore looking likeliest to claim a late winner as the speedy substitute tested De Gea and showed real pace, penetration and ambition.
United: De Gea, Valencia, Smalling, Lindelof, Shaw, Fellaini, Fred ( Martial 62), Pogba, Lingard (Pereira 74), Alexis (Mata 62), Lukaku.
Subs not used: Romero, Bailly, Young, McTominay
Wolves: Patricio, Doherty, Bennett, Neves, Jimenez, Costa (Traore 74), Bolt, Coady, Jota (Gibbs-White 86), Otto, Moutinho (Saiss 79).
Subs not used: Ruddy, Vinagre, Hause, Bonatini.
Scorers: United - Fred 18, Wolves - Moutinho 53.
Booked: United: Shaw, Wolves - Neves.
United are in Carabao Cup action against at Old Trafford on Tuesday night, taking on Frank Lampard's Derby County (kick-off 20:00 BST).
United v Wolves Gallery
The story of Saturday's Premier League game at Old Trafford in pics.