Ji Sung Park struck 2 goals, one in injury time, to snatch three points on a special anniversary for the club after visitors Wolverhampton Wanderers looked all set to take a well deserved share of the spoils.
All the early positivity that surrounded United and Old Trafford – the recent upturn in form, Sir Alex Ferguson marking his 24th year in charge of the club, and Owen Hargreaves making his first start in over 2 years, took just a few minutes of this game to evaporate.
Hargreaves pulled up in the 5th minute and took less than 60 seconds to decide he couldn’t play any further part; Bebe was introduced as his replacement and had a speculative effort soon after coming off, though it was easily blocked out. The subdued atmosphere encouraged the visitors to impose themselves on the game, and they did so using the same avenues as they did in the recent Carling Cup tie between the sides. Matty Jarvis was a thorn in Wes Brown’s side in the first half, but it was Nemad Milijas who came the closest for Wolves – his effort taking a huge deflection of Nemanja Vidic and going just wide.
United were just as unconvincing going forward, missing 5 of their first choice front 6 this season, as well as Ryan Giggs, this was hardly a surprise, but this only served to heighten the frustration on the numerous times Bebe found himself in a good position wide only to screw the crosses into the stand.
Despite all this, the Red Devils snatched an unlikely lead on the stroke of half time. Perhaps borne out of complacency from the visitors with their sense of comfort, United showed that it’s dangerous to take the foot off the pedal against them even with a side so clearly depleted. Darren Fletcher was allowed to carry the ball for a fair distance and then pick his pass – Ji Sung Park had drifted into a central position and picked the ball up, unmarked, and with plenty of time to pick his spot and give United the lead.
Though the hosts seem to grow in confidence in the second half and dictate possession, Wolves’ own renewed determination was evident – a chance just after the hour mark, created by Evra but fired straight at the goalkeeper by Bebe, was the closest United came to extending the lead. On 66 minutes, if the home team needed a shot to wake them up, they got it when old boy Sylvain Ebanks Blake came off the bench to equalise, spinning Vidic to latch onto Milijas’ shot and firing through van der Sar’s legs.
Paul Scholes and Kiko Macheda were introduced – for O’Shea and Bebe – but United still struggled, helped, ironically, by Wolves own intentions to snatch 3 points. That desire almost lead to a Steven Fletcher goal but the Scot ballooned his chance on 80 minutes.
It was left to Park to be the unlikely hero. As United huffed and puffed with a variety of aimless balls, Park changed track 2 minutes into injury time and headed direct into the visitors box, past two defenders and slotted in with his left foot from 10 yards. It was a goal that seemed too easy; but it was far from it.
Ratings : van der Sar 6, Brown 6, Ferdinand 6, Vidic 6, Evra 7, Hargreaves (Bebe 5, (Macheda)), O’Shea 5 (Scholes), Fletcher 6, *Park 8, Obertan 7, Chicharito 6