x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Wolves bring Manchester United's run to end

Their Premier League advantage remains at four points, but their rivals should sense a fragility.

George Elokobi, second right, equalises for Wolves yesterday at Molineux.
George Elokobi, second right, equalises for Wolves yesterday at Molineux.

WOLVERHAMPTON // Third time lucky for Mick McCarthy; 30 and out for Sir Alex Ferguson.

At the end of a week in which Roman Abramovich declared his discontent at observing Manchester United's disappearing rear end, the league leaders conceded their unbeaten record to a Wolverhampton Wanderers team in desperate need of a break against them.

Twice already this season Wolves lost to United at the death. Here, the fatality was the visitors' long unbeaten run in the Premier League, one that would have reached a club-record 30 games without the goals of George Elokobi and Kevin Doyle.

Unsettled by the loss of Rio Ferdinand in the warm-up, United scored early but ceded their advantage through the nervousness of a reshaped central defence.

Their Premier League advantage remains at four points, but their rivals should sense a fragility.

One of Nani's great strengths as a winger is an almost perfect balance. It allows the Portugal international to switch at an instant from one foot to the other, stepping past an opponent on whichever side an opening appears. On his first meeting with Elokobi, he turned the left-back first left, then right, then left again, pushing closer and closer to goal.

Offered the opportunity to shoot, Nani's strike curled beyond Wayne Hennessey and in.

An ominous opening, yet Wolves are not a team to relent easily. On 10 minutes they forced a corner kick. Ball returned to taker, Matt Jarvis looped his cross to the six-yard box where Elokobi barrelled in his header.

Then followed a period in which United should have reasserted themselves, yet it was Wolves who were to score again.

First Rafael then Nemanja Vidic conceded unnecessary set pieces. From the first, Nenad Milijas saw his strike bounce off United's wall and spin a foot outside the stranded Van der Sar's post.

At the second, his cross to the six-yard box was met by both Elokobi and Doyle – the former claiming the goal off his shoulder, the latter off his cheek. United began chasing the game. Paul Scholes replaced Michael Carrick at halftime, Javier Hernandez then came into the attack to end Jonny Evans's suffering in central defence.

As United failed to create chances, Scholes captured the sense of desperation by attempting to palm in a Ryan Giggs cross from the opposite flank.

No equaliser, no new invincibles.

 

sports@thenational.ae