Manchester United’s dream of FA Cup glory for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer were shattered at Molineux against Wolves as the Reds slipped to a second successive defeat.
With Wembley on offer in the semi finals, United came up short as Wolves took command of the quarter-final tie in the second half with goals from Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota. A goal in added-on time from Marcus Rashford wasn’t enough for the Reds to rescue the match and continue the hopes for domestic silverware.
Molineux’s pre-match show organisers certainly managed to ramp up an atmosphere worthy of the occasion. The 4,500 travelling Reds did their bit to make their voices heard, with the expected raucous renditions of ‘Ole’s at the Wheel.’
It was stirring stuff and a glitzy opening ceremony that was going to take some matching on the pitch. But it was a ponderous opening as United looked to get the Premier League defeat at Arsenal out of our system and Wolves were tentative as a place at Wembley beckoned.
The Reds dominated the start but couldn’t find a touch of killer magic to penetrate a gold backline. There was nothing for either set of fans to truly get their teeth into and United’s followers could hardly get excited about a couple of tame efforts from Paul Pogba and Rashford.
Wolves got their attacking game into forward drive after 28 minutes when Joao Moutinho and then Jota had chances but neither was serious trouble for Sergio Romero in United’s goal.
Diogo Dalot and a pack of Reds in the Wolves penalty area appealed for a handball offence in the box against Jonny Otto. With VAR in operation, referee Martin Atkinson waited briefly for instructions in his ear before awarding the visitors a corner, much to the annoyance of Dalot and his colleagues.
Wolves’ answer was a swift counter attack in the 42nd minute that almost brought the first goal of the game. The move ended with Jota bearing down on Romero in a dangerous one-versus-one. But United’s Argentine FA Cup keeper stood firm to keep the match goalless by pulling off a tremendous save.
It had been a pretty subdued half from United and Wolves took advantage and grabbed the initiative early in the second period.
The home side won a corner, which was delivered by Moutinho to the head of Jimenez. It needed a world-class tip over from Romero to keep it out.
It was a superb save and cemented the South American’s tag as the best deputy keeper in English football. It was a good job yet again he’s top class when, minutes later, he reacted to shovel a Moutinho long-range effort over the bar as Molineux sensed the hosts were on the brink of a breakthrough.
As United struggled to find any rhythm, Nuno Espirito Santos’s side became increasingly confident. With the pressure increasing on the Reds, Jimenez came up with the opening goal. There were plenty of red shirts in the box but after initially blocking Jimenez, the striker was able to turn and squeeze a goal home in the 70th minute.
United were unable to unearth a spirited response to the setback and, six minutes later, we found ourselves 2-0 down.
The Reds had launched an attack but Wolves broke free and it became a race between Jota and Luke Shaw. The Portuguese outmuscled the left-back, and his footwork kept him in command of the situation. He then coolly drilled past Romero.
The nightmare almost became worse for United in the 81st minute as Wolves threatened to race away for a third. Goalscorer Jota sped down the right flank and Victor Lindelof stormed across to cover but slid dangerously into the rescuing tackle and floored the Wolves man.
Referee Atkinson initially showed the Swede a red card but VAR overturned his decision, reducing the offence to a booking, and United remained with 10 men on the pitch, much to the fury of the Molineux crowd.
Juan Mata and Scott McTominay came on in a late bid by Solskjaer to find a late answer to the dire situation, adding to the earlier addition of Andreas Pereira.
United did snatch a consolation when Rashford turned to convert a cross by Shaw but a club noted for so many delirious and improbable comebacks had left it far too late to add to our catalogue of remarkable finales.
United: Romero, Dalot, Smalling, Lindelof, Shaw, Matic (Mata 86), Herrera (A. Pereira 70), Pogba (c), Lingard, Martial, Rashford.
Subs not used: De Gea, Jones, Rojo, Fred.
Scorers: Rashford 90
Bookings: Matic, Rashford, Herrera, Lindelof.
Wolves: Ruddy, Doherty, Neves, Jimenez (Costa 90), Bolt, Coady (c), Jota (Traore 87), Otto, Moutinho, Saiss, Dendoncker.
Subs not used: Norris, Bennett, Cavaleiro, Gibbs-White, Vinagre.
Scorers: Jimenez 70, Jota 76
Bookings: Boly, Neves, Coady.