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Monday, January 30, 2023

Wolves 0-1 United: Reprimanded Rashford nets winner at Molineux

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Manchester United moved up into the Premier League’s top four with a 1-0 win away at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday. Marcus Rashford came off the bench to net a late winner, after an exciting and mostly well-balanced clash at Molineux.

The pre-game buildup brought some raised eyebrows, as Erik ten Hag announced that the on-form Rashford was benched for “internal disciplinary” reasons. Alejandro Garnacho was handed Rashford’s starting berth on the left side of attack, with United otherwise unchanged from the comfortable win over Nottingham Forest in midweek.

The first half was an entertaining, end-to-end encounter, which United edged but didn’t control. The visitors went close to opening the scoring in just the sixth minute, when a Casemiro flick on a Christian Eriksen corner was deflected just over the crossbar. 10 minutes later Garnacho was presented with an even better chance, when he snaffled a tame Nélson Semedo backpass, though he was denied in the one-on-one.

Midway through the first half, Wolves fired back with a couple of big chances of their own. Only a last-ditch Aaron Wan-Bissaka tackle prevented João Moutinho capitalising on a Tyrell Malacia giveaway deep in United’s half, seconds before Diego Costa skipped inside of Raphaël Varane and fired straight at David de Gea.

However, the final chances of the first half both fell to United forward Antony. Successive crosses from both Malacia and Garnacho both landed on the Brazilian’s head, though he was denied on both occasions by Wolves keeper José Sá.

Rashford was brought in from the naughty step for the second half, and thrown on in place of Garnacho. United started well, though it was De Gea who made the first flying stop after the restart, diving to his left to palm Rúben Neves’s long-range free-kick to safety.

Soon, Fred was thrown on for Eriksen, as ten Hag looked to crank up the pressure. Wolves in turn looked to settle for the point, with new manager Julen Lopetegui bringing on defenders and switching to a back five.

However, with just over 10 minutes left, the reprimanded Rashford responded to his benching in the best possible manner. He darted in off the left, exchanging a quick one-two with Fernandes, before shrugging off a defender and slotting the ball into the Wolves goal. It was a brilliant show of individual strength, and another mark of his fine form.

Rashford thought he’d wrapped up the win with a second minutes later, though the ball rebounded off his arm on its way in, and was promptly chalked off by VAR. Wolves threw everything and the kitchen sink at United in the final few minutes, with Harry Maguire chucked on in a bid to stem the tide. Raúl Jiménez powered a header goalwards on a corner, which de Gea did well to keep out at the near post.

Fortunately, United held on for the win, moving up into a Champions League spot in the process. Let’s hope nothing more comes of the Rashford disciplinary incident — his recent form suggests he’s just about undroppable.

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