Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Manchester United. Premier League.
Free highlights and match report as Marcus Rashford is the hero for Manchester United despite being dropped to the bench for disciplinary reasons after he 'overslept'; Wolves remain in the relegation zone but Erik ten Hag's team go fourth
Sunday 1 January 2023 07:12, UK
Marcus Rashford came off the bench to score the winner for Manchester United against Wolves after being dropped for disciplinary reasons.
The England striker drilled low into the net late in the game to secure a 1-0 victory for Erik ten Hag's team that moves them above Tottenham into the top four.
Wolves, in their first home Premier League game under Julen Lopetegui, competed well throughout and looked set to frustrate United before Rashford's intervention.
The England forward was denied a second goal soon after that was ruled out for handball and David de Gea had to save well from Raul Jimenez in stoppage-time to win the game.
Wolves: Sa (8), Semedo (6), Collins (6), Kilman (7), Bueno (7), Nunes (7), Neves (7), Moutinho (6), Podence (6), Costa (6), Hwang (6).
Subs: Traore (7), Jonny (6), Toti (6), Ait-Nouri (6), Jimenez (6).
Away Team: De Gea (8), Wan-Bissaka (7), Varane (7), Shaw (8), Malacia (8), Casemiro (7), Eriksen (6), Fernandes (7), Antony (6), Martial (6), Garnacho (6).
Subs: Rashford (8), Fred (7), Van de Beek (6), Maguire (n/a), Elanga (n/a).
Player of the match: Luke Shaw
United arrived at Molineux having won seven of their last eight matches in all competitions and with the chance to move within one point of Newcastle in third with victory. Having scored in each of their last 10 and with Wolves vulnerable at the back, Ten Hag would have expected goals.
But it proved tricky. United had the better chances in the first half with Casemiro's header deflected over the bar early on, but the clearest chance fell to Rashford's replacement. Alejandro Garnacho seized on Nelson Semedo's back-pass but could not beat Jose Sa.
Wolves made one change to the team that won at Everton with Portugal international Matheus Nunes returning to the team in place of young midfielder Joe Hodge.
Marcus Rashford dropped to the bench for Manchester United due to what Erik ten Hag described as an 'internal disciplinary' issue with Alejandro Garnacho taking his place, while Luke Shaw continued to deputise in the centre of defence.
The Wolves goalkeeper also did well to deny Antony, scrambling the ball off the line in first-half stoppage-time. At the other end, Wolves threatened without testing De Gea - a tame shot from the hardworking Diego Costa being the closest they came in 45 minutes.
The game ignited in the second half following the introduction of Rashford and the livewire Adama Traore at the interval. It was the Wolves winger who initially made the bigger impact and Ruben Neves forced a fine save from De Gea with a long-range free-kick.
But with Wolves making conservative changes and defending deeper, Rashford found the breakthrough. He received a clever pass from Bruno Fernandes and wriggled free of Jonny Otto, Nathan Collins and Toti Gomes before forcing the ball low into the net.
It was a third goal in as many games following his return from the World Cup and there was almost a fourth when his attempt ricocheted back off Sa and found the back of the net only for that to be ruled out for handball. It gave Wolves hope and they almost snatched a point.
Prior to that stoppage-time victory at Everton on Boxing Day, their only wins this season had come at home to the only two teams below them in the Premier League table. It offered little encouragement that they could trouble an in-form Manchester United.
But when Jimenez, on as a substitute himself, headed firmly towards goal from Rayan Ait-Nouri's left-wing corner they almost earned a point. De Gea saved it and, in a tight game, it was the man who had been punished by his manager who made the difference.
|Bonus points||Shaw (3), Malacia (3), Wan-Bissaka (1), Varane (1)|
Speaking to BT Sport after the game, Rashford explained that he had been disciplined by the manager after being late for a team meeting.
"I was a little bit late for a meeting - I overslept," he revealed.
"It is the team rules and it is a mistake that can happen, but I am disappointed not to play, but I understand the decision and I am happy that we managed to win the game anyway. I think we can draw a line under it and move on."
Some might have considered the decision to drop an in-form player to be a risk but Ten Hag made it clear that his rules are non-negotiable.
"Everyone has to match the standards and the rules," he explained in the press conference after the game. "There have to be consequences. That is also what I expect on the pitch otherwise you cannot be successful. He gave the right answer."
He added: "That is how it has to be. We are a team that is hard to beat but that is because we are attacking with 11 and defending with 11. That is because everyone is following the rules. If you don't do that anymore, if you don't follow the rules, it flows onto the pitch."
Ten Hag disciplined Cristiano Ronaldo earlier in the season but when asked about the player's recently announced move to Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr, the Dutchman preferred to look ahead to new challenges.
"I don't talk about the past," he added.
"Let's talk about the future. We have taken a good step. The first time in the top four. But there is a long way to go. We have to win every game to get into a position where you can win something. That is what we are aiming for. It demands hard work from everyone."
Wolves boss Lopetegui saw his team applauded off at the end of the game by the home supporters, reflecting a much-improved showing by the Midlands club, but the Spaniard was clearly frustrated by his first defeat in charge.
"We are disappointed with the result in the end because I think we deserved more but I want to highlight the effort of the players and the belief, the way that they fought with a big team like Manchester United. In the end, we deserved more.
"In the second half they did not have a chance, I think the match is arriving at a key moment when we are going to have space in which to run. But they score and it is a different match. We are playing more with heart than head and we have a chance to equalise."
Wolves are back in action on Wednesday evening in a Midlands derby against Aston Villa at Villa Park. They travel to Anfield to face Liverpool in the FA Cup third round on Saturday.
Manchester United have two home games coming up at Old Trafford in the coming week. They host Bournemouth in the Premier League on Tuesday night before facing Everton in the FA Cup third round on Friday.