Marcus Rashford’s last-gasp goal gave Manchester United a 1-0 win over Wolves on Tuesday evening.
The victory moves the Reds to within two points of league leaders Liverpool, who play Newcastle United this evening.
In an even game that was low on chances, United kept plugging away until they finally got the better of a stubborn Wolves defence.
Here is how the national media reported the contest.
‘United showed a spirit that’s beginning to characterise Solskjaer’s team’
Jamie Jackson of the Guardian wrote: “Marcus Rashford’s deflected stoppage-time shot gave Manchester United an edgy victory over Wolves and ensured Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side start 2021 second in the Premier League.
“The encounter was the sides’ fourth meeting of 2020 and appeared destined to end in a third goalless draw. But United showed a spirit that is beginning to characterise Solskjaer’s team, Rashford capping a memorable personal year by sealing the win after the indefatigable Bruno Fernandes played him in with a sublime pass.
“While Solskjaer pointed to how his second-half replacements – Anthony Martial and Luke Shaw – helped turn the match, United started with bright interplay between Paul Pogba, Fernandes, Mason Greenwood and Alex Telles.
“Solskjaer urged his team to get on the ball, and they responded for a while. The problem, though, was a lackadaisical air to attacks that had no potency. One aimless Greenwood pass from the right failed to find Edinson Cavani while a Rashford backheel went wide of Telles on the opposite flank.
“Better from United was a Rashford dart to the byline that presaged Telles’s cross skimming off Cavani’s head with Rui Patrício’s goal gaping. That attack offered a flash of the pace missing from too much of United’s buildup play.
“By the break Wolves had been reduced to the odd counterattack. Neto won a free-kick on one such foray and took it himself. De Gea’s quicksilver reflexes enabled him to push out Roman Saïss’s volley from the cross.
“For the second half Shaw replaced Telles at left-back –“tactical”, said Solskjaer. Had the manager also informed his players to sharpen their act, the sight of Pogba’s clumsy touch near halfway will have dismayed him. And if there was a noticeable increase in vocal intensity – both teams contributing with shouts of encouragement – the quality remained below par.
“In the hope of improving Wolves’ quality, Nuno Espírito Santo brought on Daniel Podence for Vitinha but it remained United who did the majority of huffing and puffing. When Fernandes fails to spark United often suffer and so it was proving.
“The Portuguese was having a rare match in which the flicks, spins, passes and runs were foundering and so Solskjaer called for Martial. Greenwood was taken off for the Frenchman but because United had created a paucity of chances Rashford and Cavani might just as easily been the ones to make way.”
‘A transformative effect’
“The question has been asked numerous times since he made his debut in this fixture 11 months ago,” The Daily Mail’s Chris Wheeler wrote. “Just where would Manchester United be without Bruno Fernandes?
“When the club’s new £68million signing was thrown in against Wolves just six days after joining from Sporting Lisbon, and with United in some turmoil, no-one expected the Portuguese playmaker to have the impact he has.
“That game finished goalless and this one was heading that way too until Fernandes launched the late attack that led to United’s injury-time winner from Marcus Rashford.
“It’s hard to think of a player who has had such a transformative effect on a team.
“The 26-year-old has become a talisman for a United team not short of big-name players. He has played in all 29 Premier League games for the club since facing Wolves on his debut, starting 28 of them.
“When Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made the bold decision to put Fernandes on the bench at West Ham earlier this month, he had to bring him on at half-time with United a goal down. They won 3-1.
“In those 29 games, he has been directly involved in 32 goals – scoring 18 and setting up another 14.
“One of Fernandes’s other great strengths is that he isn’t afraid to take chances. No-one gives the ball away more and it can be costly at times, as it was when United were pegged back at Leicester on Saturday.
“But he has the creativity, and unpredictability, to unlock opponents unlike any other United player.This wasn’t Fernandes’s finest performance by some stretch, which might explain why United were disappointing too.
“And he actually wasted United’s best chance of the first half, scuffing a volley straight at Rui Patricio when Mason Greenwood picked him out at the back post.
“But Fernandes didn’t let his head drop. He didn’t drift out of the game. He demanded the ball more, moved around the pitch more trying to find a breakthrough for his team. It was no surprise that his through ball deep into added time led to the late winner.
“Heading into 2021 and the first anniversary of his move to United, he is still very much the main man.”
‘Plenty of work to do but improvement is there to see’
The Independent’s Mark Critchley said: “It was almost the game that everyone was expecting. In some ways, even though Marcus Rashford’s stoppage-time winner lifted Manchester United to second in the Premier League table and earned three points against Wolves, it still was.
“This was the fifth time that the two sides have met since the start of last season and the fourth time this calendar year. All those previous games had produced a grand total of three goals. They have now produced a grand total of four.
“United’s struggles against low blocks under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer are well-documented and long-established, and blocks do not come much lower than Wolves’.
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Manchester United left it late to beat Wolves 1-0 in the Premier League, thanks to Marcus Rashford’s late goal
United now move into second spot in the Premier League table, now on an unbeaten run of nine league matches, after a 2-2 draw with Leicester on Boxing Day.
United’s first game of 2021 is at home to Aston Villa.
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“The pattern of those many meetings last season – two in the league, two in the FA Cup – was repeated. United dominated the ball and waited patiently to create openings while Wolves kept their shape and looked for opportunities to break.
“And everything went according to that script until Rashford’s late intervention.
“There is a temptation to look at the result and take it as evidence of huge progress, especially as United won just one of the four games against Wolves last season. You could equally choose to look at the game in its entirety, point to United’s familiar struggles to create chances and say little has changed.
“The truth probably lies somewhere in between. There remains plenty of work for United to do when it comes to consistently beating reactive sides like Wolves, but plenty of work has already been done and the improvement is there for all to see.”