Martial sparks Manchester United win over Wolves to boost top-four hopes | Premier League
From the moment the enigmatic Anthony Martial scored just after the half-hour, Manchester United lived in a squeaky posterior time that lasted until Alejandro Garnacho’s 94th‑minute breakaway goal.
Wolves had refused to be cowed throughout and it was from one of their attacks that Erik ten Hag’s team countered. An Aaron Wan-Bissaka header in his own area came to Luke Shaw, whose hooked pass found Antony, who relayed the ball to Bruno Fernandes. The arch-playmaker’s pass was weighted perfectly into Garnacho, on as a substitute for a first appearance since a foot injury in March.
The jet-heeled youngster burst along an inside-right channel and pinged United’s second in off Dan Bentley’s left-hand post, then trotted over to the Stretford End to celebrate, removing his shirt when doing so.
Victory – plus Newcastle’s earlier draw at Leeds – tightens United’s grip on a Champions League berth after the loss of their previous two games, and six points from the last available nine will ensure “the job is done”, to quote Ten Hag. They travel to Bournemouth next Saturday then face Chelsea and Fulham at home.
The manager said: “We take the points and move on – all we have to do now is to get better and improve the focus. The team was ready for this battle – for this fight.”
Ten Hag said of Garnacho: “Today he came on and he scored a goal and did almost everything good and that will give him belief for the rest of the season. One of the aspects for the biggest talent is that first they take responsibility and second they are mature, have belief that they can dominate opponents and once again he did it.
“He had a big impact in many games and hopefully he can progress so quickly he can compete for a [starting] position – that is his challenge.”
United were, mostly, dominant throughout, exchanging possession as if the contest was a mere training exercise. A punched ball from Casemiro found Christian Eriksen but he smashed it over. A Max Kilman slip allowed Antony in and the Brazilian shaped on to his left, but the shot sailed wide of Bentley’s goal. Missing chances was a theme of the winger’s contribution.
Jadon Sancho, Casemiro, Shaw, Antony and Wan-Bissaka were forming attack waves that Julen Lopetegui’s men struggled to repel, so a Diego Costa scythe-down of Antony was a visiting player refusing to allow an opponent free rein. Maybe this inspired Wolves because after a Martial slip near Bentley’s area suddenly Neto led a raid through the left that had United scrambling. Next, Neto claimed a corner on the other wing but this yielded nothing, as did a Fernandes free-kick that dipped through the sunlight directly in Bentley’s eyes and which the goalkeeper on Premier League debut did well to catch cleanly.
He was helpless, though, when a Sancho-Shaw combination created the opening for a cross. As Antony rose unmarked at the back post he had to score. But his header was wild and Wolves’ goal remained intact.
Moments later the status changed. Fernandes claimed a 50-50, the ball spun to Sancho who returned it. On striding forward, a pass from the Portuguese splayed Wolves and Antony squared to Martial, who coolly finished to Bentley’s right for an eighth goal of the season.
Toti Gomes, in marauding left-back mode, caused United a scare as the interval neared, while Antony’s blistering break might have doubled the lead but, again, he was toothless.
United continued to pummel their foes in the search for a second but Wolves had chances too. Lopetegui had swapped Neto for Hwang Hee-chan and when the South Korean stood the ball up by David de Gea’s goal Wan-Bissaka was forced to head out.
This illustrated United were far from safe and Ten Hag’s nerves must have felt shredded – which is what the Dutchman felt Kilman did to Fernandes when a challenge brought his talisman down as he skipped through. When John Brooks waved away the No 8’s appeals uproar against the referee ensued and Ten Hag berated the fourth official, Andre Marriner.
Fernandes loves feeling wronged so there was vim in a spurt that ended with a pass-shot hybrid that Martial was inches from turning in. Late on, the substitute Wout Weghorst could have ended the argument with a point-blank header.
Somehow he missed, but Garnacho didn’t and sealed all three points.