Well, we didn’t actually do too badly for the first 30 minutes! But Ronald Zubar, showing the idiocy and indecision that has sadly been in keeping with the majority of our season, then decided to lunge himself at Danny Welbeck when already booked for a previous challenge. Off he went, and with him the slim hopes of a positive result. Already leading through an early Jonny Evans strike, subsequent goals from Antonio Valencia, Danny Welbeck and two from Javier Hernandez gave the in-form champions a crushing victory that extended their lead over Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table to four points.
In what was a rather tentative opening, Wolves acquitted themselves well, without looking overly threatening, but the visitors soon began to step up. After Welbeck had saw a tame shot saved by Wayne Hennessey, Rafael combined well with Wayne Rooney, before sending a teasing ball across the six yard box that was just out of the reach of the onrushing Javier Hernandez.
Wolves were keeping the ball reasonably well in midfield, and David De Gea had to be alert to deny a Kevin Doyle strike from 20 yards. A few minutes later, a beauty of a cross from Matt Jarvis was headed narrowly wide by lone frontman Steven Fletcher. But United were increasingly exuding control of the contest, and after Michael Carrick had sent a shot wide, they moved into the lead on 21 minutes. An inswinging corner from Rooney was met by Carrick, who peeled off at the back post to tee up Evans to score from close range. It was atrociously poor defending from Wolves, once again showing the lack of concentration that will ultimately seal their Premier League demise.
Despite the goal, Wolves responded well, but the moment of lunacy from Zubar on 35 minutes ended the contest there and then. Having been cautioned for a similarly poor tackle on Rooney just minutes before, the right back (I use that term loosely) went flying into Welbeck out on the left flank, and referee Anthony Taylor was left with no option.
United now sensed blood, and a quick counter attack just two minutes before half time led to the second goal. Upon receiving the ball inside his own half, Valencia carried the ball at pace for nigh on 60 yards before converting emphatically past the stranded Hennessey. It was a ruthless act from the champions, and there was still time to add one more before the half time whistle, Welbeck finishing accurately from inside the box after a cross from Rafael.
It was now damage limitation for the hosts, but United were looking to fill their boots. Ten minutes after the restart, they added a fourth through Hernandez. A simple cross from Rafael was met by the Mexican striker, who was left ridiculously unmarked inside the six yard box to head into the bottom corner. Defending so bad it had to be seen to be believed! ‘Chicarito’ was on target again shortly afterwards, steaming in at the far post to lash home into the roof of the net after a fine ball from Valencia.
Wolves had capitulated in dramatic fashion again, a double figure scoreline looking increasingly realistic. Yet with 30 minutes still to go, United started to relax. Buoyed on by a defiant South Bank, the home side began to see more of the ball. Substitute Michael Kightly was lively upon his introduction, and both he and Fletcher drew standard saved from De Gea. At the other end, Welbeck and Rooney saw shots blocked by the Wolves defence, and Hernandez was denied a hat trick by a fine Hennessey save late on. Thankfully, the final whistle arrived without further embarrassment, and whilst United seem to be hitting form at just the right time at the top of the league, Wolves are inching closer and closer to the Championship.
Can we just stop the season now, please?! Each defeat is becoming more soul destroying than the one before. Like a much loved animal that is gravely sick, you just wish the misery could end right away instead of the prolonged pain and suffering.
Whilst relegation would naturally be devastating, it’s patently clear that the we need a complete overhaul to rebuild. It seems as if all of the hard work to get into the Premier League has been undone, but we have to start again now. The likes of Fletcher, Hennessey and Jarvis have deservedly earned the right to stay in this division, but in a business sense, we would make a hefty profit if all three move on, as expected.
TC will be here to the season’s end as well, despite many campaigning to get Steve Bruce in to give us a fighting chance of survival. In the summer, I hope we look towards a young, up and coming manager. I personally wouldn’t mind Gus Poyet; he would certainly fit this mould and his teams tend to play good football. His time at Brighton has been hugely successful, winning the League One title in 2010/11 in his first full campaign as a manager. This season, he has managed to keep the Seagulls in the Championship play-off hunt. In my opinion, he would be the best of the candidates, but of course we are only speculating at the moment.
Back to this game and, despite the result, one big positive was the brilliant support from the South Bank in the second half. Hopes of survival have now been replaced by acceptance of our fate, and it was a refreshing change from the bile that was spewed out, inside and out of the ground, against Blackburn. One can only hope they are as supportive in the next home game with Bolton. Unfortunately, it’s hard to imagine that will be the case.
But whatever happens in our relegation fight, it all pales into insignificance after what happened at White Hart Lane on Saturday evening. At the time of writing, Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba remains in a critical condition after suffering a cardiac arrest on the pitch at Tottenham.
My prayers and thoughts are with him and his family at this difficult time, and we are all hoping he manages to pull through.