Nearly three months since losing 1-6 at Old Trafford to José Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United — still led by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer — sit two points behind league-leading Liverpool heading into the new year, after Marcus Rashford’s stoppage-time winner to beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-0 on Tuesday night.
The first half started in United’s favor before devolving into a rather tedious affair that saw the two sides mustering few noteworthy chances.
The best chance for United came in the 34th minute as Mason Greenwood did a couple of stepovers from the right-wing before playing a perfect inswinger with his left foot to a charging Bruno Fernandes. The Portuguese caught the ball off the volley but was inexplicably denied by a heroic effort from his countryman Rui Patricio. Edinson Cavani tried to kick in the deflection with his back turned to goal but Wolves would survive the assault without conceding.
Several minutes later, Wolves would find their best chance of the half in the 39th minute off of a set-piece. A free-kick conceded to Wolves on their right-wing yielded an inswinger to Roman Saïss who found himself on the edge of the United line. Saïss kicked his leg out in the air to direct the ball on frame, forcing David de Gea to make a quick reaction save.
Other than that, the best thing from the first half was the Sir Alex Ferguson crowd shot by order of the Peaky Blinders.
#MUNWOL first half highlights: https://t.co/PllQ1bdUuL— The Busby Babe (@TheBusbyBabe) December 29, 2020
The second half would prove to be 45 minutes that we all REALLY wished we had something else to do.
This is basically the match report so far. https://t.co/rCBsTcCVIN— The Busby Babe (@TheBusbyBabe) December 29, 2020
United’s most dangerous moment came in the 69th minute when the Reds found the net all for nothing. A corner kick was drilled into the mixer that found Eric Bailly’s noggin before bouncing off of Conor Coady’s hand and Edinson Cavani quickly tucked the ball into the net. However, to the chagrin of those in Red, Cavani was very much offside and Coady’s hand was very much within a natural position.
It's almost like playing 8 or 9 games in less than a month ends up with your side playing plodding, boring football for long periods.— The Socially Distanced Fuse (@TheShortFuse) December 29, 2020
see e.g.: #Arsenal today https://t.co/3B6w2lKts2
Inexplicably, the team on less than 48 hours rest managed to look the better side for most of the match. Wolves were more than comfortable to concede the lion’s share of possession in favor of catching United on the counter and earning more shots on goal on less total shots. Ultimately, United passed the ball aimlessly around Wolves’ half without much industry as we all thought about things we’d rather watch than this fixture.
But, despite all the mind-numbingly boring football guaranteeing a scoreless draw, Dr. Marcus Rashford MBE did the damn thing in stoppage time.
RAAASSSSHHHHHHHHHFFFFOOOOORRRRRRDDDDDDDD— The Busby Babe (@TheBusbyBabe) December 29, 2020
In the third minute of stoppage time, Rashford found himself one-on-one in the box after a ball over the top from Bruno Fernandes, and the forward dribbled along the right side to create space for a shot. Rashford blasted the ball with his left foot and the ball took a slight deflection off of a Wolves player and found its way past Rui Patricio to break the 93-minute stalemate.
MARCUS RASHFORD IN STOPPAGE TIME! #MUNWOL pic.twitter.com/LOCJ87TRjR— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) December 29, 2020
Unlike the weekend when United had a late lead in hand, the opposition didn’t have enough time to find an equalizer and the Reds would earn themselves a hard-fought, if not deserved, three points in the kind of match pundits romanticize for teams making title pushes — but I wouldn’t be so bold to make such assertions this early in the season.
United are back at Old Trafford on New Year’s Day to face fifth-placed Aston Villa who are quite an impressive side this season after staving off relegation during Project Restart. Now, it’s time to see what Ole is really made of as he has maneuvered his team to its most optimistic league position under his tenure. It’s go time, Reds.