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Manchester United 2-0 Wolves: Martial and Garnacho score as Reds strengthen grip on top four

United remain four points clear of fifth-placed Liverpool.

Manchester United v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Premier League Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images

Manchester United took a big step towards Champions League qualification with a 2-0 win at home to Wolves on Saturday. Goals in either half from Anthony Martial and Alejandro Garnacho proved enough to see off an impotent Wolves, who failed to record a single shot on target.

Erik ten Hag made three changes to the United side that slumped to defeat at West Ham last weekend, with Raphaël Varane, Anthony Martial and Jadon Sancho returning to the starting lineup, and Tyrell Macia and Wout Weghorst dropping to the bench; Marcus Rashford missed out altogether with a leg injury.

The game got off to a slow start, and set the tone for a rather drab first half. There were a couple of early half-chances: Craig Dawson fired a Wolves corner over the bar with a first-time snapshot, before Antony seized on a Max Kilman slip to curl a low shot wide of Dan Bentley’s far post. Otherwise, chances were few and far between — the Old Trafford sunshine contributing to the illusion that this was a pre-season friendly rather than a Premier League clash with Champions League qualification on the line.

Still, United were the more enterprising of the two sides, and saw comfortably more of possession. They woke up shortly before halftime, with an unmarked Antony contriving to miss a simple header at the back post on a teasing Luke Shaw delivery. However, he made amends two minutes later, turning provider with a low ball across the six-yard box for Anthony Martial to tap home for 1-0. Wolves had no reply, and the first half ended with United in a narrow lead.

The game again lulled early in the second half, and it took until just before the hour before United mustered their next chance. The lively — if not always entirely effective — Antony found some space on the edge of the area, and fired a low shot wide of the near post via a deflection off Mario Lemina.

With United huffing and puffing but failing to find an all-important second, ten Hag elected to make his first substitution: Martial was withdrawn to make way for Weghorst. A quiet Jadon Sancho might have killed the game off in the final 20 minutes, when he dribbled into the box and drove a low shot towards the near post, though Bentley got down to make a fine save.

Seeking to protect United’s slender lead, ten Hag elected to introduce Harry Maguire, Fred and Alejandro Garnacho in place of Varane, Eriksen and Sancho. A swerving, dipping snapshot from Casemiro soon posed problems for Bentley, though he parried behind for a corner. Weghorst should’ve done better on the ensuing corner, though he powered a free header over the crossbar from six yards.

Wolves keeper Bentley continued to keep the visitors in the game, making a superb save to deny Antony on the cusp of stoppage time. In the end, however, it was all in vain, with United guaranteeing the points with a second on a quick counter-attack in the dying minutes. Substitute Garnacho marked his return from injury with a superb goal, springing the offside trap before curling home off the post.