Manchester United ended 2022 on a winning note by beating Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-0 at the Molineaux in the Premier League on Saturday (December 31).
Marcus Rashford came off the bench to score the only goal of the game in the 76th minute as the Red Devils won their third straight top-flight game. Erik ten Hag's side looked laborious for much of the opening stanza, but Alejandro Garnacho was guilty of missing a fine opportunity to score in the 16th minute.
To inject firepower into his XI, the Dutchman brought on Rashford, who was dropped from the starting lineup for disciplinary reasons, in the second half, and the attacker repaid the manager's faith.
Following a neat one-two with Bruno Fernandes, Rashford fired a right-footed strike into the back of the net to put Manchester United in front.
Wolves huffed and puffed in search of an elusive equaliser but came up short. Goalkeeper David De Gea was called into action in stoppage time, parrying away Raul Jimenez's close-range header.
With 32 points in 16 games, United climbed above Tottenham Hotspur into fourth place in the standings and have a game in hand over third-placed Newcastle United (34).
On that note, here're the five hits and flops from the game:
Hit: Marcus Rashford (Manchester United)
Ten Hag sent shockwaves by benching Rashford for the clash despite the forward scoring in the last two games post the midseason break. He later revealed that the decision was a disciplinary action against the England international without giving any details.
However, the issue seems to be already behind them now, with Rashford coming off the bench to score Manchester United's only goal of the game.
Playing a neat one-two with Fernandes, he brushed off his marker inside the box and hammered a strike past Jose Sa to net for the third straight game. As for Ten Hag, he was seen jumping with joy on the sidelines, an indication that he has forgiven Rashford.
Flop: Nelson Semedo (Wolves)
Nelson Semedo nearly gifted Manchester United a cheap goal early on. He then went into the books for a mistimed challenge before being hooked off midway through the second half.
The Portuguese full-back played a loose backpass to Wolves goalkeeper Sa, which Garnacho intercepted but couldn't finish as the former had spread himself out to make a fine save. It was a real let-off for Wolves.
Then in the 26th minute, Semedo caught Garnacho with a poor challenge and was shown a yellow card for it. To avoid risking a second yellow, Lopetegui hooked him off in the 65th minute.
Hit: David De Gea (Manchester United)
David De Gea has been among the most impressive performers for Manchester United post the break. He kept a clean sheet in their Nottingham Forest win earlier in the week and followed up with another one.
The Spaniard made three saves in the game to frustrate the Wolves. He kept out Diego Costa in the first half, but the former Atletico Madrid striker's effort was tame.
After the break, De Gea produced two quality saves, which truly rescued the Red Devils' beacon.
In the 58th minute, he palmed away Ruben Neves' goal-bound strike from behind for a corner. Then in stoppage time, he parried away Raul Jimenez's on-target header to deny Wolves a late equaliser. Rashford may take all the credit for the win, but De Gea was the real MVP.
Flop: Alejandro Garnacho (Manchester United)
Ten Hag started Alejandro Garnacho in place of Marcus Rashford, and the move nearly backfired, as the youngster had a torrid time up front.
He conceded a free-kick in a useful position in the third minute for tugging Semedo. Gamacho then wasted another opportunity from a corner by blazing a loose ball over the bar.
If that wasn't enough, he then spurned a glorious chance to score after intercepting Semedo's loose backpass but failed to beat Sa. Having seen enough, Ten Hag hooked Semedo off at the break for Rashford.
Hit: Jose Sa (Wolves)
David De Gea wasn't the only goalkeeper to have a great outing, as Jose Sa also starred in between the sticks for Wolves, making six saves.
His biggest contribution was denying Alejandro Garnacho in the 16th minute before making a strong save on Antony a while later in the first half.
Sa later demonstrated nerves of steel to jump at Antony's feet and steal possession away from him at the near post before the Brazilian could smash it home.
Fernandes also failed to beat Sa in the dying moments, but the damage was already done by Rashford's earlier strike, which the Wolves custodian failed to keep out. That was his only blot in an otherwise pristine copybook.
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