Man Utd 2-1 Wolfsburg: Juan Mata stars as United defeat stubborn Wolfsburg
By Jack Wilkinson
Last Updated: 01/10/15 1:17pm
Juan Mata scored one and set up another as Manchester United came from behind to beat a stubborn Wolfsburg side 2-1 in the Champions League at Old Trafford.
A celebratory night at the Theatre of Dreams, which saw the hosts end a year-long absence from Europe's elite club competition, started off on a sour note as Daniel Caligiuri fired the visitors into a shock fourth-minute lead.
United spurned two glorious chances to level the game before Mata eventually did so, converting a penalty on 34 minutes after his cross was handled in the area by Caligiuri.
The Spaniard then turned provider, exquisitely chipping the ball over the Wolfsburg defence for Chris Smalling to convert with a cute finish eight minutes after the interval.
Both sides made one change ahead of the game, with Bastian Schweinsteiger drafted into the United midfield in place of the injured Michael Carrick, while former Chelsea winger Andre Schurrle was denied a start on his return to England as he dropped to the bench.
Luke Shaw's horrific leg break in United's previous European outing - a 2-1 defeat at PSV - saw Matteo Darmian and Antonio Valencia deployed in unfamiliar full-back roles, and the latter was at fault as Wolfsburg raced into an early lead.
Valencia failed to step up from the back and played Cagliari onside. The winger then gathered Julian Draxler's pass before coaxing the ball beyond David de Gea at his near post.
A shell-shocked United took a while to respond but had the youthful exuberance of Anthony Martial to thank for stirring a comeback.
The Frenchman tormented the Wolfsburg rearguard and created United's first chance of an equaliser when his drilled cross found Wayne Rooney in space in front of goal on 26 minutes, only for the United captain to steer the gilt-edged effort over the bar.
Mata then found Memphis Depay with a perfectly-weighted cross, but the Dutchman's header was saved by Wolfsburg stopper Diego Benaglio on 28 minutes.
United were finally level soon after as Mata's cross from the right was blocked by Caligiuri's arm and the Spaniard - who took over the penalty-taking duties from Rooney - slotted the ball home from 12 yards.
The hosts started the second period poorly, affording Max Kruse and Draxler the time and space to create a number of early chances for the visitors, but De Gea was not called into action and United were soon in front.
Wolfsburg invited pressure as they failed to clear their lines before Mata's improvised back-heel fell for Smalling, who tucked the ball home on the stretch.
Louis van Gaal's men then weathered a storm from the Bundesliga side as they pushed for what would have been a deserved equaliser.
The withdrawal of Schweinsteiger in the losing stages saw United lose their ability to control the game as Wolfsburg mounted a sustained assault on the United goal.
But United stood firm to claim their first Champions League victory this season - one that leaves Group B delicately poised after two games with all four sides level on three points.