Same score line, same problems for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Just 17 days on from a painful FA Cup exit at Molineux, Manchester United suffered in similar fashion here on Tuesday night.
A defeat that dents their hopes of finishing in the top-four owed much to another disjointed performance little better than the one Solskjaer described as the worst of his time in charge. The Norwegian has now lost three of his last four games.
But great credit must go again to Wolves for another vibrant performance to beat United twice in the same season for the first time since 1980. They have now taken 13 points of the Big Six teams, more than any other club outside that bracket, and go into Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final against Watford in buoyant mood.
Diogo Jota played a starring role throughout as Wolves once again proved to get the better of Manchester United on home soil
The tricky striker showed how well he links up with Raul Jimenez as he broke the offside trap to cancel out United’s opener
United’s chances of leaving Wolverhampton with three points were dented when Ashley Young was shown a second yellow
The veteran defender, deployed at centre back, rashly went in on Jota as Mike Dean gave his 100th Premier League red card
Wolves had a combination of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling to thank for the winning goal as the latter put through his own net
United’s cause was not helped by the deserved sending-off of captain Ashley Young just before the hour mark but a display that started so well and dipped so badly was summed up by the two goals they conceded.
The winner in the 77th minute started with Joao Moutinho on the left who swung in a cross towards the penalty spot.
Raul Jimenez beat substitute Phil Jones to it and headed downwards. Leander Dendoncker swung at the ball and missed but Chris Smalling got in David de Gea’s way and then handballed the ball into his own goal as he fell over.
It all started so brightly for United when Scotland midfielder Scott McTominay struck his first goal for the club from range
Wheeling off in celebration, the central midfielder raced towards the bench as he revelled in the occasion of getting a goal
While United started strongly and were flying high early on, the tide soon turned and it quickly became a very tough match
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looking to continue his fine start to life as United manager cut a frustrated figure in his technical area
United returned to Molineux 17 days after their worst performance under Solskjaer and a fully deserved FA Cup exit.
Wolves’s reward was a date at Wembley on Sunday but any suggestions Nuno Espirito Santo might be tempted to put out a weakened team were dispelled an hour before kick-off.
He made four changes from Saturday’s defeat at Burnley, but this was arguably his strongest line-up with the exception of young full-back Ruben Vinagre.
Solskjaer made six changes from the team that completed a rather unconvincing win over Watford, at least one of which was enforced following Marcus Rashford’s late withdrawal.
Ander Herrera’s absence was put down to injury rather than anything to do with his contract impasse, while Nemanja Matic, Juan Mata and Anthony Martial were dropped to the bench and Phil Jones made way for the return of Victor Lindelof.
MATCH FACTS, PLAYER RATINGS AND LEAGUE TABLE
Wolves: Patricio, Bennett, Coady, Boly, Doherty, Dendoncker, Neves (Saiss 84), Moutinho, Ruben Vinagre (Jonny 76), Jimenez, Jota (Cavaleiro 73).
Subs not used: Costa, Gibbs-White, Ruddy, Traore.
Goals: Jota (26), Smalling OG (77)
Manager: Nuno Espirito Santo
Manchester Utd: De Gea, Young, Smalling, Lindelof, Shaw, Fred (Jones 65), McTominay, Pogba, Dalot (Pereira 84), Lukaku (Martial 73), Lingard.
Subs not used: Mata, Rojo, Romero, Matic.
Goals: McTominay (14)
Booked: Shaw, Dalot, Young
Red card: Young
Manager: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral)
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Jesse Lingard started brightly and looked to set the tone for United early on as he unleashed a shot after just seven seconds
Jota, buoyed by the goal he scored against United in the FA Cup win recently, looked to wrestle back control in central areas
The visitors dominanted in the early stages and should have gone ahead when Romelu Lukaku rose to meet an inviting cross
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side eventually made their dominance count as McTominay fired home to the delight of team-mates
It took United 13 minutes to take the lead in the teeming rain that played its part in Scott McTominay’s first senior goal.
Jesse Lingard had possession on the left and played the ball infield to Fred who laid into the McTominay’s path. The young midfield took a touch and then drilled a shot from 25 yards which flew through the legs of Willy Boly and skidded off the wet turf beyond Rui Patricio into the bottom corner.
It was no more than United deserved after a bright opening in which Romelu Lukaku headed straight at the keeper from Diogo Dalot’s excellent cross.
Lingard also had a clear chance to extend United’s lead when Lukaku lifted a lovely pass to him in a similar position in front of goal, but Patricio guessed the right way and turned his header around the post.
At that stage, Wolves looked every bit a team distracted by their upcoming trip to Wembley, but that all changed midway through the half.
With the rain making it a very quick surface, attackers fancied their chances as Raul Jimenez looked to race Victor Lindelof
Wolves struggled initially but soon equalised when Jimenez played a through ball to Jota who successfully found the net
United goalkeeper David de Gea was left exposed and could do little to unnerve Jota who lifted the ball over him into the net
Lukaku and Paul Pogba frankly exchanged their views following Jota’s goal as the blame was passed around United’s players
Now on top in the game, Wolves were left exasperated at not taking the lead when Leander Dendonker blazed over the bar
No sooner had Raul Jimenez hammered their first chance over the bar after he was set up by Vinagre and Boly than the home team snatched an equaliser.
It owed much to United’s mistakes and the frailty of an unfamiliar back-five with Ashley Young operating in a more central role.
David de Gea played a goal kick out to Fred who didn’t appear to want it very much in such an isolated position. Joao Moutinho sensed the opportunity and tackled the Brazilian, turning possession over to Leander Dendoncker. He played the ball to Jimenez who slipped it to Diogo Jota and he through on goal thanks to Young’s clumsy attempt to play offside.
The Portuguese striker took one touch and stroked a shot past De Gea for his sixth goal in the last seven league games here.
All of a sudden Wolves were in full flow and United were looking vulnerable. Dendoncker and Ruben Neves went close before the interval, although Wolves were fortunate that Lukaku’s low effort in added time did not roll the other side of the far post.
Solskjaer, now permanent boss of United, looked to calm his players down as they saw their early dominance disappear
Luke Shaw looked to provide an attacking outlet from left wing-back but was booked meaning he will miss the next two games
Dean had a busy night with cards and United will be left to rue their lack of discipline once again against Wolves at Molineux
Aside from the equaliser, when emotions ran wild, Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo was a calm figure throughout the game
Things got worse for United midway through the second half when Young’s high challenge on Jota saw him shown a red card
All of a sudden Wolves were in full flow and United were looking vulnerable.
Dendoncker and Ruben Neves went close before the interval, although Wolves were fortunate that Lukaku’s low effort in added time did not roll the other side of the far post and Patricio made a fine one-handed save to deny McTominay a second goal shortly after the restart.
Shaw and Dalot were both booked towards the end of the half as United struggled to contain Wolves, and Young was next into Mike Riley’s notebook for a foul on Jota.
His second caution – and the 100th Premier League red card of Riley’s career – was not far behind when McTominay played Young into trouble with a misplaced return pass just before the hour mark, and his attempt to stop Jota taking advantage by felling the striker with a lunging studs-up challenge left the referee with little choice.
United held on for less than 20 minutes, and it could have been worse had De Gea’s excellent save stopped another Smalling own-goal and Ivan Cavaleiro not hit the bar in added time.
Solskjaer patted his player on the back before he went down the tunnel but the Norwegian knew the size of the task ahead
Things got worse after the red card as Smalling failed to clear and put through his own net to send Molineux into raptures
Dendonker tried to claim the scruffy finish but replays showed Smalling had punched the ball into the back of de Gea’s net
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