Five goals inside little over an hour ensured United would stretch the lead at the top of the table to four points as ten-man Wolves were dismantled almost at will at Molineux.
Antonio Valencia was simply outstanding on his return from injury and he added to Jonny Evans’ opener after Ronald Zubar was sent off six minutes short of half time. Danny Welbeck made it three in first half stoppage time and a brace from Javier Hernandez proved to be the end of the scoring.
That was perhaps a surprise to many given the manner in which Wolves had been savaged, with Manchester City’s superior goal difference still a factor in the title race, but nothing should detract from a third 5-0 win on the road in the Barclays Premier League this term.
After a spell of applause for Fabrice Muamba, following his shocking collapse in Bolton’s FA Cup tie at Tottenham, there was a largely subdued atmosphere for the opening period with the home fans perhaps low on expectation considering their team’s recent poor run.
It took nine minutes for the champions to tear a huge hole in the opposition defence but Rafael could not pick out a man in the middle after being played in by Valencia, the two changes to the XI that faced West Brom combining to good effect on the right flank for the first of many occasions.
Wolves briefly mounted some pressure with Kevin Doyle’s shot easily fielded by David De Gea and Steven Fletcher flicking a header from a Matt Jarvis centre wide, even though the offside flag was up in any case. Three minutes later, it was United who broke through after Michael Carrick’s shot deflected off Richard Stearman for a corner.
Wayne Rooney played the flag-kick to the far post and Carrick’s intelligent sidefoot volley back into the danger zone was met by Evans, who swivelled to thump home his first goal for the club on his 119th appearance. Things went from bad to worse for Terry Connor’s strugglers when Zubar inexplicably launched into wild tackles on Rooney and Welbeck within 11 first-half minutes. Welbeck received treatment as referee Anthony Taylor produced the inevitable second yellow card.
Scenting blood, United responded to the 10 men gamely winning a corner by breaking down the other end to double the lead. Welbeck’s header out was moved on by Hernandez to Rooney, who produced by far his best pass of the half to release Valencia down the right. The fit-again Ecuadorian had plenty to do but utilised his pace to stunning effect and arrowed a brilliant finish just inside the far post.
Evans displayed his confidence with a raking pass to bring Valencia into the game again and an accurate cross, as is usually the case from the ex-Wigan man, allowed Welbeck to sweep an instant finish past the wrong-footed Hennessey to make it 3-0 before the interval.
The second half was always likely to be a case of damage limitation for the hosts with Hennessey doing well to push away a decent attempt by Rooney that skipped off the turf. However, the Welsh keeper had no chance when a short corner led to Valencia inviting Rafael to centre and Hernandez guided home with the simplest of headers.
Hernandez clearly had the taste for goals again as he buried number five soon afterwards, following a superb move involving Valencia and Welbeck with the England international’s flick in the one-two a flash of real genius. The Reds’ football, against demoralised opponents, was mesmerising and majestic with Hennessey needing to race out to deny Hernandez a hat-trick.
Wolves conjured up a response that finally extended De Gea, but the Spaniard was equal to efforts from Michael Kightly and Fletcher. A sixth goal proved elusive as Fabio failed to find the required finish after coming on as a substitute and Hennessey kept out Welbeck with his right foot following great approach work by Rooney.
Paul Pogba, another substitute, hammered off target and Hernandez could only loop a header comfortably into Hennessey’s arms as United were unable to add to the scoreline, despite assuming total control. So it’s all eyes on the Etihad Stadium for Wednesday’s clash between City and rejuvenated Chelsea.
Hoping for a City Sinking and a Chelsea win for the first time!
Glory Glory ManUnited!