Tuesday, December 15, 2009

United 3 - 0 Wolves

Mick McCarthy's vastly-changed Wolves survived for half an hour before losing out to a lacklustre Manchester United.

With 10 new faces from the team that beat Tottenham, Wolves fell behind to a Wayne Rooney penalty after Ronald Zubar handled Darron Gibson's corner.

Defender Nemanja Vidic soon made up for a wild volley by nodding in United's second from another Gibson corner.

An uninventive Wolves rarely threatened and Antonio Valencia fired in the third after clever work by Dimitar Berbatov.

After their shock defeat by Aston Villa, United boss Sir Alex Ferguson will be pleased with the three points which draw them level on points with leaders Chelsea, but the flat performance might give him a few concerns.

The talking point before kick-off could have been Ferguson's previous 899 league games in charge, but instead it was the visitors' surprising line-up that caught the attention.

After Saturday's 1-0 win at Tottenham, the Wolves team sheet revealed 10 changes by manager McCarthy with goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann the only survivor from their White Hart Lane heroics.

Premier League rules state that clubs should "field a full strength team", although the governing body told BBC Radio 5 live it was unlikely they would launch any investigation into the Old Trafford match.

These are worrying times for Wolves with this defeat pushing them back into the bottom three after Bolton saw off West Ham on Tuesday night.

Despite regulars Stephen Ward, Jody Craddock, Richard Stearman and Nenad Milijas all being absent from the squad, McCarthy's team of unfamiliar faces justified their selection at the start as they shut out United's strike partnership of Rooney and the recalled Berbatov.

After firing a one-on-one at Hahnemann's legs and then seeing a deflected shot dribble just wide of the post, Rooney finally got the all-important opener with a penalty on the half-hour to settle the early jitters.

Gibson's corner looped into the box and, as Zubar leaped with the towering Vidic, the Wolves defender flapped with his arm and referee Steve Bennett pointed to the spot.

The diving Hahnemann could do nothing to prevent the England striker hammering in his 12th league goal of the season and his 20th in the Premier League in 2009.

Just before the interval, the league champions doubled the lead after Vidic made up for an earlier high-and-wide volley that sailed over the bar.

It was another Gibson corner that created further havoc in the defence as the Serbian defender nodded the ball down and saw it squirm through the American keeper's hands.

The tepid exchanges continued in the second half and it was the visitors who almost pulled one back with a rare attack, but George Friend could only blaze over.

It was time for a change in personnel and McCarthy stoked up his attacking options by replacing the hard-working but largely ineffective Stefan Maierhofer with Chris Iwelumo.

Wolves soon conceded a third though, thanks to some trickery from Berbatov.

The Bulgarian picked up the ball on the right after a raking pass from Paul Scholes and hooked the ball over his head to Valencia, who hammered in a half-volley.

United's victory was a canter in the end, and after the Wolves fans chanted "we want our money back" it will be interesting to see which 11 they will be watching when they come up against fellow-strugglers Burnley at the weekend.

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