Goalscorers: Nani 3, George Elokobi 10, Kevin Doyle 40
Wolverhampton Wanderers: Wayne Hennessey, Christophe Berra, George Elokobi, Richard Stearman, Ronald Zubar, Adam Hammill (Stephen Ward 65), Karl Henry, Nenad Milijas (Sylvan Ebanks-Blake 89), Jamie O’Hara (Kevin Foley 59), Matt Jarvis, Kevin Doyle
Manchester United: Edwin van der Sar, Jonny Evans (Chris Smalling 65), Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra, Rafael, Michael Carrick (Paul Scholes 45), Darren Fletcher, Ryan Giggs, Nani, Dimitar Berbatov (Javier Hernandez 65), Wayne Rooney
Referee: Michael Oliver, Attendance: 28,811
Wolverhampton Wanderers looked in desperate relegation trouble as the 2010-2011 Premier League season entered the month of February. Mick McCarthy’s side had conceded late in the midweek defeat to Bolton Wanderers and were bottom of the table when league leaders Manchester United travelled to Molineux for a Saturday evening kick-off.
It had already been a spectacular goal-filled afternoon with 37 goals in seven earlier Saturday matches and another three followed here, with one of the biggest surprises of the campaign so far. Wolves had already shown they could upset the big teams and had defeated Manchester City, Liverpool FC and Chelsea during the campaign. However, Sir Alex Ferguson’s champions-elect were on a 29-match unbeaten run in the Premier League, the third-longest in the competition’s history.
The formbook indicated the visitors should leave the Midlands with all three points and inside three minutes, they were already into the lead. In some of the best form of his Manchester United career, Nani broke down the right-hand side of the pitch, twisted and turned past George Elokobi and fired a left-footed shot inside Wayne Hennessey’s near post. The Portuguese international was starting to finally fulfil his potential that had always been evident since his 2007 transfer from Sporting Lisbon.
However, their advantage lasted a meagre seven minutes. Matt Jarvis produced an excellent cross into the danger area and Elokobi made amends for being beaten comprehensively for Nani’s goal with a towering header for his first goal of the season. Ferguson’s side had lost Rio Ferdinand in the warm-up to a calf injury and his leadership was being missed, as his replacement Jonny Evans struggled to deal with Wolves’ strong physical presence on proceedings.
Buoyant by the equaliser, Wolves began to sense the Red Devils were there for the taking. On-loan midfielder, Jamie O’Hara was making his debut for the club and he impressed throughout, forcing 40-year-old goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar into an improvised save whilst Nenad Milijas saw a free-kick nearly creep past the Dutchman via a nasty deflection off Nemanja Vidic.
Then, Wolves got a deserved lead five minutes before the interval. From another Milijas set-piece, Kevin Doyle just beat teammate Elokobi to the header and for the second time in the evening, United had been completely bullied at a set-piece scenario. Wolves were ahead and the impossible result suddenly looked like a distinct possibility.
There was a lack of response from the Red Devils after the break. Even the introduction of veteran midfielder Paul Scholes and expert substitute Javier Hernandez couldn’t break Ferguson’s side out of their slumber. Scholes even got booked in the closing stages for a deliberate handball when attempting to meet a cross.
Wolves claimed another impressive victory, repeating their 2004 success over Manchester United and it was a vital result as they avoided relegation on the final day of the season in dramatic circumstances.