Premier League – Wolves condemn United to first defeat
In a top versus bottom clash that all but the most optimistic Wolves fan assumed would be a United walkover, two goals from George Elokobi – although Kevin Doyle will try to claim the second – overcame Nani’s opener as the champions struggled to create opportunities against their stubborn hosts.
Defender Elokobi had never scored in the Premier League before but it was United who were bereft of ideas as they lost their first league game at the 25th time of asking.
Despite the result Sir Alex Ferguson’s side are four points clear of second-placed Arsenal after the Gunners threw away a four-goal lead at Newcastle, while Wolves stay at the bottom following Wigan’s win, behind West Ham only on goals scored.
United had a fabulous start when, on three minutes, Nani scored a trademark goal, cutting inside from the right and – with everyone expecting the cross – firing a wicked drive inside Wayne Hennessey’s exposed near post.
Wayne Rooney should have made it 2-0 soon afterwards but fired straight at Hennessey after excellent hold-up play from Dimitar Berbatov. After that, though, United’s performance was nothing short of abject as they barely created a meaningful opportunity.
Wolves levelled on 10 minutes as United fell asleep at a quick corner routine, Elokobi flicking an excellent header into the bottom right with the visiting defence all over the place.
Down the other end Christophe Berra was granted a reprieve by 25-year-old referee Michael Oliver when he appeared to block Nemanja Vidic as he arrived to meet a corner.
That was on the quarter hour and, for the rest of the half, it was all Wolves, with Jamie O’Hara testing Edwin van der Sar at the near post and a superb Nenad Milijas free-kick deflected just wide with the soon-to-retire Dutch keeper stranded.
The cultured left boot of Serbia midfielder Milijas had a huge say in Wolves’ second goal five minutes before the break, which came about from his wonderful inswinging free-kick from the right, flat and almost impossible to defend as both Elokobi and Doyle claimed the goal.
Doyle stooped into a header but it appeared to strike the shoulder of the Cameroonian full-back: it was impossible to tell but Elokobi mock harassed the Irishman into letting him have the goal.
Nani headed one over just before the break, although with his lack of aerial ability it was generous to afford it half-chance status, and United were sent out early for the second half as Ferguson opted for the low-level humiliation that worked at Blackpool.
There was no such joy this time though as United, for all their possession, never really tested Hennessey in the second 45 minutes.
Just before the hour mark half-time substitute Paul Scholes slid a Rafael cross well wide, while Berra blocked Rooney’s effort after his keeper failed to claim a routine cross.
Late on Patrice Evra had a penalty shout correctly rejected when he fired a cross against the arm of Ronald Zubar from point-blank range as United huffed and puffed through the latter stages, which included a generous five minutes of injury time awarded by Oliver.
To say Wolves held out would be flattering – they merely had to remain solid – as United’s poor away record threw the title race back open.
Reda Maher / Eurosport