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Manchester United 1-0 Wolverhampton Wanderers: Juan Goal Makes the Difference

Won the battle. Lost the war?


Manchester United earned a much-needed win over bogey team, Wolverhampton Wanderers, on Wednesday night in the FA Cup Third Round replay as the Reds earned a 1-0 win at Old Trafford. Juan Mata provided the go-ahead goal while United talisman, Marcus Rashford walked off the pitch early with a troubling injury.

The opening 10 minutes featured more action than the entire first leg provided. Daniel James’ blistering pace caused fits for the Wolves’ backline who saw the Welshman penetrate their line on multiple instances. United seemed poised to find the early go-ahead as even Aaron Wan-Bissaka completed a dribble into an incredibly dangerous area for the visitors.

Despite the positive start for the home side, Wolves found its counter and took the lead off a defensive lapse in the United half. Fred played a ball towards the center that clanged off the back of Nemanja Matić, and, to the chagrin of everyone wearing red, the ball found itself at the feet of Mexican superstar, Raúl Jiménez inside the United penalty area. The Wolves’ forward played the ball past an approaching Victor Lindelöf and to Pedro Neto who was by himself with only Sergio Romero to beat. The Spaniard played the ball low and to the right of Romero to give Wolves a tentative 0-1 lead. However, upon review, VAR disallowed the Wolves goal as the ball brushed the hand of Jiménez during the build up.

The remainder of the first half would see United and Wolves trade chances and half chances as United’s best attempts on goal were stifled by Wolves’ goalkeeper, John Ruddy, and Wolves’ best chances were stifled by Matić’s head, the inside of the left post, and the aforementioned video assistant referee.

The second half continued the back and forth from the first half. Then, in the 67th minute, Harry Maguire ruined Wolves’ attack and dispossessed Matt Doherty. The United captain dribbled away and chipped the ball to Martial who cut inside and raced up the pitch. The Frenchman quickly played a perfect ball up to Juan Mata who was unmarked and streaking towards the Wolves’ goal. The veteran maestro calmly chipped the ball past Ruddy and it casually bounced into the goal to give United a hard-fought lead.

Despite taking the advantage, United was not allowed to head into the next round of the FA Cup unscathed. After entering the match earlier in the 63rd minute, Marcus Rashford was run into during a challenge and the most in-form United player found himself down and in need of a substitution. Rashford would have to play on for several more minutes before Jesse Lingard could replace him in the 79th minute.

Now, United must prepare for another quick turnaround as it will face Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday, Jan. 19. The previous match up between the rivals saw Liverpool drop its only league points of the season, and United will look to give Liverpool its first loss in over a calendar year. However, the club may have to do it without the player they would want most against Liverpool as everyone in Manchester waits for Rashford’s diagnosis.