Manchester United today increased their lead at the top of the Premier League to 4 points with a resounding 5-0 win away at Wolves.
For the second game in a row Sir Alex Ferguson had named an attacking line up, with Rooney, Welbeck and Hernandez starting. The inclusion of Antonio Valencia was also a massive boost. There was some disappointment, however, that Berbatov was not named on the bench.
Wolves looked to start on the front foot, pressing in midfield and attacking at each chance. The opening minutes gave the impression that the game would be as tight and hard fought as many United fans expected. For the first 20 minutes Wolves looked controlled and confident, and a warning was given when Fletcher ghosted in behind Ferdinand to head a Jarvis cross wide.
This woke United up, and within a minute of the Fletcher header, they went up the pitch where Michael Carrick found himself space to shoot from 20 yards. The shot was blocked but United had a corner, which proved to be vital. Carrick was found in acres of space by Rooney, who took the corner, and was able to cushion his volley down to the unmarked Johnny Evens who twisted to lash home his first Manchester United goal.
United, who had stated slowly, now started to get a grip in midfield and therefore start to dictate play. With Fletcher playing a lone role up front for Wolves, there was very little little options for a way out when a United attack had broken down.
With United now growing in confidence and looking to add to their lead, Wolves task become much harder in the 39th minute when Ronald Zubar was shown his second yellow card of the game. Two late challenges on Rooney and Welbeck, respectively, within 10 minutes of each other left the referee with little choice.
Uniteds man advantage paid off almost immediately. A Wolves corner was defended well and saw Rooney receive the ball midway inside his own half. After a sloppy start Rooney was now looking sharper and put a ball into loads of space for Antonio Valencia to latch onto. Having been absent from the United team through injury since our trip to Amsterdam, Valencia didn’t look rusty and did indeed get onto Rooney’s pass. His pace took him away from the Wolves defence and he closed down on Wayne Hennessey’s goal. Hennessey came to close the angle but Valencia kept his head to powerfully strike the ball home.
43 minutes gone, The Reds two up and Wolves a man down; the game looked won already. Now, could United close that goal difference deficit? There was no doubt that was the intention as a 3rd went in during 1st half injury time. Once again the Wolves defence had gone AWOL and the marking was non existent as Valencia once again found himself with space out on he right. Danny Welbeck had presence of mind to drop off and was found with ease by Valencia. Welbeck had only one thought and finished with a first time shot into the bottom right corner. The Wolves keeper just a spectator, it was a classy goal from the young United striker.
After that slowish start United had finished the half on a real high and were starting to show signs of playing to their full potential. Not to mention The Reds looked likely to go on the rampage in the second period.
A little surprisingly it was a tentative start from United in the second half. They were happy to keep the ball and be patient in their build up. It was this philosophy however which led to Uniteds fourth goal. A Wayne Rooney effort from 20 yards was saved well by Hennessey, who turned the shot away for a corner.
The resultant corner was taken short to Rafael who crossed into the box. Once again the Wolves defence were nowhere to be seen, so much so that just 5 yards out Javier Hernandez was able to nod the ball in with embarrassing ease.
United now looked hungry again and not about to rest on their laurels. A Rooney cross, just 2 minutes after Hernandez had scored the fourth United goal, almost saw the little Mexican connect but Hennessey did just enough to distract him.
With the game obviously beyond Wolves, Sir Alex Ferguson ceased the opportunity to involve Paul Pogba once again, with Carrick giving way. The young man who has been at the centre of much speculation over the last few weeks, looked relatively comfortable once again in the centre of Midfield. He pressed Wolves, and as is his way, got stuck in as well as comfortably hold possession. He also found himself with half a chance to get himself on the score sheet late on but he skewed his shot wide. It was a difficult chance and perhaps Welbeck should have been more selfish and taken the ball as it appeared he looked to do originally.
With half an hour still remaining United increased their lead again. Valencia, who had another excellent game, was once again at the heart of the move. Cutting in from the right wing, he ran across the front of the box before going at the Wolves defence. A lovely one-two with Welbeck just inside the box gave Valencia space to dink a ball to the back post where an on running Hernandez connected beautifully on the half volley to score.
With so much time remaining you can be forgiven for feeling a little disappointed that United to did add to the score line. Being so dominant it looked very plausible that it could have been seven or even eight. As it was though the remainder of the game was somewhat pedestrian, but United for the large part were in total control.
To their credit Wolves rallied for a short period, forcing David De Gea into a couple of tidy saves. His saves did him credit as he had so little to do all afternoon, he showed that he is always switched on.
The scoreline allowed Ferguson to make a couple more changes, replacing Evens, again solid in defence with Smalling who is still to fully recover from his head injury. Possibly more significant though was Fabio coming on for Evra. Both Evra and Evens have played a lot of football this season so it was nice to see the chance to rest them was taken. Evens has been solid but Evra, however, has been poor at times and perhaps some pressure from Fabio may improve his game.
Though there could have been more goals, United have closed the gap in goal difference, which could still be vital come the end of the season. It was a fine result, without United needing to be brilliant or work themselves to hard, which at this stage of the season is just as important as running riot.
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