Wolves' 10 men no match for United's title momentum

Wolverhampton Wanderers 0 Manchester United 5

Molineux

There are few teams more ruthless than Manchester United when they scent the potential for a big scoreline and, in a season in which they are hell-bent on chasing down Manchester City's superior goal difference, it does not take much to imagine the outcome Wolverhampton Wanderers feared at half-time.

Gary Neville exhorted his former team-mates to go for the throat after the end of the first half. "Goal difference! Destroy the extra point argument!" he tweeted and, against the 10 men of Wolves, Javier Hernandez scored twice more. United's lead over City at the top of the Premier League is now four points and United have also reduced the disparity in goal difference to just three.

The "extra point" Neville referred to was once just that for City – at its height, their goal difference was 14 better than United's, boosted by that 10-goal swing in the 6-1 win at Old Trafford in October. It was such a preoccupation for Sir Alex Ferguson that he even mentioned it in the immediate aftermath of that shattering defeat and, in a title race that has stayed so close, it could yet be significant.

Over to City, who on Wednesday face a Chelsea team that yesterday won their fourth straight game under Roberto Di Matteo, as Ferguson was eager to point out. "They [City] have a big game on Wednesday of course and Chelsea are back to form," he said. "It will be really interesting. The important thing was for us to do our job. There are nine games left. We have to keep whittling them down. Eventually the games run out and hopefully we will achieve what we want."

It was so straightforward for United yesterday that even Jonny Evans scored his first goal for the club – "I don't even think he scored when he was in the academy," Ferguson said – and Antonio Valencia and Danny Welbeck weighed in, too.

Valencia was an immensely impressive performer, scoring the second United goal and playing a key part in the subsequent three. For his goal, Wolves allowed Valencia to run unchecked down the right wing for the best part of 40 yards and his finish into the far corner past Wayne Hennessey was excellent.

Ferguson identified the winger as a key factor in his team's run-in. "He could be very important," he said. "His form before he got the injury was outstanding. Now he is back, we hope he stays back fit. He is such an honest, hard-working player. You get two sides to Antonio. He is prepared to work really hard. He can tackle, he can run. He can beat a man. He has got everything really. He works so hard for the team, which is really important."

The other main contender for man of the match was Paul Scholes, who was given so much time to pick his passes that he did so time and again. Since he came out of retirement, United have taken 25 out of a possible 27 points in their subsequent nine league games, all of which Scholes has featured in.

If it does come down to the matter of goal difference, and it is United who prevail, City fans will not forget in a hurry the calamitous contribution of Ronald Zubar, who got himself sent off six minutes before half-time. At that point, it was still 1-0 and Wolves had not disgraced themselves.

Terry Connor, the Wolves manager who is yet to win after four matches in charge, was, he said, in "damage-limitation" mode by then. "At half-time we asked the players to show the spirit and stay fighting and limit the damage," he said. "We didn't want to concede six, seven, eight and have everyone say that's the end of our season. I thought they [Wolves players] did brilliantly [after half-time]."

Brilliant might be pushing it, but it could have been much, much worse for Wolves. Zubar's two challenges were preposterous. In the first he cleaned out Wayne Rooney and then did the same to Welbeck when he was out by the touchline and posing no immediate danger to Wolves' goal. "They were both in areas of the pitch where we didn't need to make tackles," Connor said. "I asked the boys to be competitive but it wasn't good."

The marking had been pitiful for United's first goal, Rooney's long corner to the backpost volleyed downward by Michael Carrick and finished by an unmarked Evans. Connor said he had told his players he could accept United opening them up "by brilliant play but we couldn't accept them getting anything we could defend."

With Zubar off and the confidence gone, Valencia scored the second with two minutes of the half remaining, Hernandez and Rooney combining to play him in down the right. It was Valencia's cut-back from the right that made the third goal, for Welbeck just on half-time.

Hernandez's first goal came from a cross from Rafael da Silva after Valencia and Carrick had worked a short corner. After the hour he came in at the back post to score after Valencia and Welbeck combined. That Wolves' 10 men held out for what was virtually 30 minutes in a Molineux atmosphere that teetered between pride and despair was some comfort for Connor, but not much.

Molineux is not a happy place at the moment. There was a restless unhappiness in the stands and songs about the chief executive Jez Moxey later on in the game. There was also a good deal of defiant support of the team but it does not look good for Wolves. They are bottom of the table on goal difference behind Wigan and Queen's Park Rangers. Wolves play Norwich away on Saturday and the following week face Bolton Wanderers at home, with Bolton a single point ahead of them having played one game fewer. That match will be a good indication of how the end of the season is likely to pan out for Wolves.

Match details

Wolves: HENNESSEY 5/10; ZUBAR 2; STEARMAN 4; BASSONG 4; WARD 5; DOYLE 5; DAVIS 5; HENRY 6; FOLEY 6; JARVIS 6; FLETCHER 5

Man Utd: DE GEA 6; EVRA 6; FERDINAND 6; EVANS 7; RAFAEL 6; VALENCIA 8; SCHOLES 8; CARRICK 7; WELBECK 7; HERNANDEZ 7; ROONEY 7

Scorers. Man Utd: Evans 21, Valencia 43, Welbeck 45, Hernandez 56, 61

Substitutes: Wolverhampton Wanderers Jonsson 5 (Davis, 43), Kightly 5 (Doyle, 57), Ebanks-Blake (Fletcher, 76). Manchester United Pogba 6 (Carrick, 58), Fabio 6 (Evra, 63), Smalling (Evans, 74).

Booked: Wolves Zubar (twice). Man United Welbeck.

Sent off: Wolves Zubar (40).

Man of the match Valencia. Match rating 6/10.

Poss: Wolves 44% Man Utd 56%. Attempts on target: Wolves 3 Man Utd 18. Ref A Taylor (Cheshire). Att 27,494.

Suggested Topics
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
i100
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
tv
News
i100
Extras
indybest
Sport
Scottish singer Susan Boyle will perform at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow
commonwealth games
News
Lane Del Rey performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
people... but none of them helped me get a record deal, insists Lana Del Rey
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn