Media playback is not supported on this device Highlights: Man Utd 1-0 WolvesJuan Mata’s superb second-half goal sent Manchester United into the FA Cup fourth round as they beat Wolves. The Spanish midfielder chipped over keeper John Ruddy to settle the third-round replay after being put through on goal by Anthony Martial.Wolves had an early…
Juan Mata’s superb second-half goal sent Manchester United into the FA Cup fourth round as they beat Wolves.
The Spanish midfielder chipped over keeper John Ruddy to settle the third-round replay after being put through on goal by Anthony Martial.
Wolves had an early Pedro Neto strike ruled out by the video assistant referee for a handball in the build-up.
But it was a deserved win for the hosts, who had the better chances in a tight game at Old Trafford.
Manchester United will next travel to either Watford or Tranmere – whose third-round replay at Prenton Park on Tuesday was postponed because of heavy rain.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side did not manage a shot on target in the goalless first game between the two sides at Molineux on 4 January but were much more threatening in this match.
An excellent save by Ruddy prevented Mata from opening the scoring in the first half, while Daniel James was also denied by the Wolves keeper.
After a high-tempo start, the game settled down – but Mata, 31, produced the one moment of quality to seal victory, rolling back the years with a clever finish.
Man Utd get job done but at a potential cost
It is a tough period for many clubs in the Premier League with games in multiple competitions coming thick and fast. With his side facing a tough trip to league leaders Liverpool on Sunday, Solskjaer may have been forgiven for making numerous changes for this tie.
But the FA Cup and Europa League arguably represent Manchester United’s most realistic routes to trophies this season and Solskjaer underlined how seriously he is taking this competition by naming a strong line-up on Wednesday.
There were just three changes from the side that beat Norwich 4-0 in the Premier League last Saturday, as Sergio Romero was named in goal, while James and Mason Greenwood also started.
Wolves, too, went strong with their line-up, with Ruddy their only change and the two sides, cancelled each other for large periods.
Eager to get the job done and wrap up the game inside 90 minutes, Solskjaer sent on top scorer Marcus Rashford in the 64th minute to add bite to his attack and, three minutes later, United were ahead.
But the gamble to involve Rashford may prove costly; the striker pulled up with an injury and had to be replaced by Jesse Lingard just 15 minutes after coming on.
New handball rule causes controversy again
VAR has certainly had its critics this season – but for the second time in five days, it was new regulations relating to handball that caused controversy as the video official stepped in to rule out a goal.
The law regarding handball, updated before the start of this season, states any goal scored or created with the use of the hand or arm will be disallowed “even if it is accidental”.
West Ham and Declan Rice fell victim to it last Friday when the midfielder’s injury-time equaliser against Sheffield United was ruled out because the ball had touched his arm in the build-up.
This time, the handball rule was applied early on at Old Trafford when VAR spotted that the ball had brushed Raul Jimenez’s hand just before Neto fired home early on.
It was a let-off for Manchester United and spared Fred’s blushes with the strike having come as a result of a wild pass by the midfielder that deflected off a team-mate and into Jimenez’s path.
It also seemed to set the tone for the rest of the game as Manchester United grew in confidence after a strong start by Wolves, who struggled to get Adama Traore involved as much as they would have hoped.
Man of the match – Brandon Williams (Manchester United)
Another early exit for Wolves – the stats
- Manchester United have won each of their past six home matches in the FA Cup without conceding a single goal in this run.
- Wolves have been eliminated at the third-round stage or earlier in seven of their past nine FA Cup campaigns, this after having made it to at least the fourth round in each of their nine seasons in a row before this.
- Manchester United have won nine of their past 10 home matches against Wolves in all competitions, keeping six clean sheets in those games.
- Juan Mata has been directly involved in three goals in his past two games for Manchester United (one goal, two assists), as many as he was in his first 20 appearances of the 2019-20 season in all competitions before this.
- Since his FA Cup debut in January 2016, Manchester United forward Anthony Martial has eight assists in the competition. Only Peterborough’s Marcus Maddison (11) has more in this time.
- Marcus Rashford was the first Manchester United player to both come on as a substitute before then being substituted himself in the same FA Cup match since Alan Smith against Liverpool in February 2006.
Manchester United travel to Premier League leaders Liverpool on Sunday, 19 January (16:30 GMT) while Wolves are at Southampton the day before (15:00).