Wolves 2 Manchester United 1
Manchester United’s campaign to finish in the Premier League’s top four suffered a setback on Tuesday night, with a 2-1 defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers at a rain-soaked Molineux Stadium.
The Reds are now placed fifth in the table on 61 points, behind the two North London clubs Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, who both have games in hand to play. It is not an ideal scenario, but mountains are there to be climbed and Solskjaer will rally his troops for the six remaining league matches - not to mention the two-legged Champions League tie against Barcelona which begins next week.
Solskjaer made six changes to the starting XI and two of those were enforced, after Ander Herrera and Marcus Rashford were ruled out through injury. Nevertheless, despite those unfortunate omissions, the manager remained fully confident in his selected side.
The Reds started at pace, literally attacking from the kick-off when Jesse Lingard dribbled straight up the pitch to unleash a low shot at Rui Patricio’s goal. A moment later, Romelu Lukaku saw a close-range header, from Diogo Dalot’s cross, saved by Wolves’ accomplished goalkeeper.
That early intensity encouraged our travelling fans in the Steve Bull Stand and their optimism soon turned into jubilation, at the sight of McTominay unleashing a driven shot on a soaking wet pitch that skidded into the bottom corner of the goal, putting United ahead after 13 minutes. It was the Scot’s first competitive goal for the club, having only previously netted in a pre-season friendly.
Much of the pre-match conversation had focused on Wolves potentially having one eye on their Emirates FA Cup semi-final at the weekend, but the home side were clearly in no mood to roll over.
Unfortunately for the Reds, they responded by showing the attacking form that has won them so many plaudits and equalised thanks to a fine finish from Jota, after he had beaten the offside trap.
The men in gold applied more pressure at the end of the first half and Ruben Nevez forced a good save out of David De Gea, with a looping shot from range.
Lukaku unfortunately spurned an opportunity to score in added time before the break, when his shot rolled agonisingly wide of the far post.
United began the second half with a much higher defensive line and almost restored the lead on 55 minutes, when McTominay burst into the box to head a deflected Lukaku cross to the right of goalkeeper Patricio, who did well to make a smart reactionary save under pressure.
Just as some momentum was building, Solskjaer’s ranks were reduced to 10 men as a result of Young receiving his second yellow card of the half for fouls on Jota. The captain was sent off by referee Mike Dean, whose 100th Premier League red card was cheered by the Wolves supporters.
Solskjaer responded by introducing Phil Jones in place of Fred and the centre-back was involved in a decent chance on 67 minutes, after his shot from distance was cleared away into the path of Diogo Dalot, who unleashed an ambitious left-footed effort that flew over the bar from the right wing.
Wolves took the lead after 78 minutes in fortuitous circumstances, with Joao Moutinho's cross causing a goalmouth scramble that resulted in Smalling inadvertently knocking the ball into his own net.
Nuno Espirito Santo's side almost scored again late on through substitute Ivan Cavaleiro, whose powerful shot bounced off the crossbar in the last meaningful piece of action.
Wolves: Patricio, Doherty, Bennett, Neves (Saiss 83), Jimenez, Boly, Coady, Jota (Cavaleiro 73), Moutinho, Vinagre (Jonny 74), Dendoncker.
Subs not used: Ruddy, Costa, Gibbs-White, Traore.
Scorers: Jota 25, Smalling own goal 77.
United: De Gea, Dalot (Andreas 83), Young, Smalling, Lindelof, Shaw, Fred (Jones 65), McTominay, Pogba, Lingard, Lukaku (Martial 73).
Subs not used: Romero, Rojo, Matic, Mata.
Scorer: McTominay 13.
Booked: Shaw, Dalot, Young (sent off)