Manchester United defender Raphael Varane scored a late winner as the hosts survived several scares to claim a 1-0 Premier League win over Wolverhampton Wanderers on Monday with a performance that largely lacked cohesion and attacking threat.
Varane’s header after 76 minutes earned United a scarcely deserved three points as he was picked out in the six-yard box by Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s dinked cross, much to the relief of a nervous home crowd and exasperated manager Erik ten Hag.
Wolves had been painted as a club in disarray over the last week after a fire-sale of top talent and the abrupt exit of Spanish manager Julen Lopetegui, who was replaced five days ago by former Bournemouth boss Gary O’Neil.
But it was the visitors who created the better chances, more than enough to win, and had a late appeal for a penalty turned down by the Video Assistant Referee at Old Trafford.
United’s new goalkeeper Andre Onana clattered into substitute Sasa Kalajdzic in coming for a cross but referee Simon Hooper waved play on and VAR agreed, much to the ire of O’Neil, who got a yellow card for his protests.
“It was a fight, we had to find a way to win and that’s what we did. Wolves are a good team, we knew we would have to play well to get the points,”
“We can be much better on the ball, more calm. We gave too many easy giveaways of the ball, especially our front players. But we will improve.”Ten Hag told Sky Sports.
Teenage Argentine wing Alejandro Garnacho was a major culprit as he saw plenty of the ball but his end product was poor and took the sting out of many of United’s attacks.
Wolves, by contrast, passed the ball around with confidence and opened up the United defence on several occasions although a mixture of poor finishing and some fine stops from Onana kept them scoreless.
Pablo Sarabia and Matheus Cunha fired wide for the visitors after lightning breaks, while the best chance of the opening half for United fell to Frenchman Varane but he could not get a clean connection on his header.
Ten Hag replaced centre-back Lisandro Martinez, who had been booked, at halftime, opting for Victor Lindelof off the bench rather than Harry Maguire, a clear indicator of where the England defender is in the pecking order at Old Trafford.
Wolves had an excellent chance to take the lead four minutes into the second period when Cunha had a tap-in at the back post, but he put his effort wide off the woodwork.
Onana was called into regular action after that but, with a rare clear-cut chance for the home side, Varane made up for his earlier miss to score and stuttering United were able to just about hang on until the end.
“Upset is the word,”
“We worked a lot. We need to keep improving. We mixed new ideas and old ideas. I’m a little upset with that result.”Cunha told the BBC.
Regarding the late spot kick appeal, the forward added: “It’s a very hard decision. For me it’s a penalty but you need to respect (the decision).”