United’s youngsters came through a fascinating test to make the quarters of the Carling Cup after a hard-earned win against Wolves at Old Trafford. Sir Alex most notably gave Bébé his first start of the season, and he was complemented on the opposite flank with the experience of Ji-Sung Park. Gabriel Obertan played just behind Macheda up front, Gibson and Carrick were entrusted with holding the midfield together. Smalling, Evans, Brown and Fabio provided the defensive unit in front of Ben Amos, who would be faced with his first real taste of senior team action. Unlike last year, Wolves opted to play their full-strength squad, and the likes of Ebanks-Blake would be making their return to the club.
In all honesty, the first half was at no point an interesting story. It was a case of loose passes, and no one team really making the effort to find the breakthrough. Whether it was a case of nerves or just caution is unknown, but on the plus side, players like Bébé and Smalling did no harm to their value with their first half performances. Bébé was a constant threat down the right, and showed flashes of the untapped potential that made the scouts recommend him to Sir Alex. He showed good strength and pace against the physicality of Elokobi, though his final ball left something to be desired. Chris Smalling looked solid throughout the half, and did very well against the Wolves pairing of Fletcher and Ebanks-Blake. And really, that is all that can be said of a dire first 45 minutes.
The phrase “football is a game of two halves” has never been more justified than this game however. The second half, right from the off, looked a completely different prospect to the first. Macheda had the first real chance of the game, but his curling shot from an acute angle went harmlessly over. Michael Carrick then fed Park with a delightful ball for the best chance of the game, but the winger could only shoot straight at Hennessey in the Wolves goal. Moments later however, United did finally find the opening goal. Bébé went on another dashing run forward, and his deflected effort looped over Hennessey and into the net. Sure, it was a bit of luck — but it will do no harm to Bébé’s confidence.
Keeping to the tune of the season however, United let slip the goal advantage. Ben Amos failed to deal well with a corner taken from the right, and caught in a crowd of players, found himself in no-man’s land. George Elokobi then had the simplest of tasks to head the ball into an empty net. The game was definitely shaping up now, and Park took full advantage of this just ten minutes later. Macheda’s blocked effort on goal fell into the path of an on-rushing Park, and knocking the ball past the first defender, he superbly finished with his left into the top right corner of the goal. 2-1 with twenty minutes to go — would that be enough? Of course not. Matt Jarvis was creating all kinds of problems down the right and left flanks, and it was his mishit cross that Foley latched on to hit on the spin and into the net. Despite having his vision partially blocked by the covering defender, Amos might have done better to deal with the shot.
The game had shifted its course completely and Wolves were dominating proceedings — Ebanks-Blake had the chance to settle the game, but his bullet left-footed volley just shaded the post. And then the game-changing moment came — with the arrival of last game’s hero Javier Hernández. Immediately, he injected new life to the United side, with his great pace and amazing ability in the air, winning almost every aerial challenge. He managed to play Obertan through on goal, but once again his (Obertan) final ball let him down. On the 90th minute however, the result was different. Having started the move, Hernández darted forward, and was fed by Gibson, and after a lovely dummy past his marker, coolly clipped over Hennessey to provide the winner. Incredible stuff, and very quickly becoming a hero of the Old Trafford crowd.
In all it was a strange game in the sense that it was a bore first half, but a fantastic second. For a certain period of the game it look like Wolves would snatch the win, but the defence survived a torrent of Matt Jarvis orchestrated attacks. Carrick had his best game for a while, and Gibson also showed some good vision in his passing. However, it was the intervention of Hernández that sparked the recovery after giving up the lead twice, and this man looks like he is just born to score — of the Solskjaer mould, if you like. It is still early days, though, and let’s all hope he can keep up these performances for the remainder of the season — and beyond.
Best Moment: Hernández’s winner
Worst Moment: When Ebanks-Blake nearly scored Wolves’ third
Man of the Match: Bébé
Written by Sownak27