Late Varane header earns stuttering Man Utd 1-0 win over Wolves
Manchester United defender Raphael Varane scored a late winner as the hosts survived several scares to claim a 1-0 Premier League win over Wolverhampton Wanderers on Monday with a performance that largely lacked cohesion and attacking threat.
Varane’s header after 76 minutes earned United a scarcely deserved three points as he was picked out in the six-yard box by Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s dinked cross, much to the relief of a nervous home crowd and exasperated manager Erik ten Hag.
Wolves had been painted as a club in disarray over the last week after a fire-sale of top talent and the abrupt exit of Spanish manager Julen Lopetegui, who was replaced five days ago by former Bournemouth boss Gary O’Neil.
But it was the visitors who created the better chances, more than enough to win, and had a late appeal for a penalty turned down by the Video Assistant Referee at Old Trafford.
United’s new goalkeeper Andre Onana clattered into substitute Sasa Kalajdzic in coming for a cross but referee Simon Hooper waved play on and VAR agreed, much to the ire of O’Neil, who got a yellow card for his protests.
Teenage Argentine wing Alejandro Garnacho was a major culprit as he saw plenty of the ball but his end product was poor and took the sting out of many of United’s attacks.
Wolves, by contrast, passed the ball around with confidence and opened up the United defence on several occasions although a mixture of poor finishing and some fine stops from Onana kept them scoreless.
Pablo Sarabia and Matheus Cunha fired wide for the visitors after lightning breaks, while the best chance of the opening half for United fell to Frenchman Varane but he could not get a clean connection on his header.
Ten Hag replaced centre-back Lisandro Martinez, who had been booked, at halftime, opting for Victor Lindelof off the bench rather than Harry Maguire, a clear indicator of where the England defender is in the pecking order at Old Trafford.
Wolves had an excellent chance to take the lead four minutes into the second period when Cunha had a tap-in at the back post, but he put his effort wide off the woodwork.
Onana was called into regular action after that but, with a rare clear-cut chance for the home side, Varane made up for his earlier miss to score and stuttering United were able to just about hang on until the end.
Wolves rue penalty decision as Ten Hag hails United’s fighting spirit
Wolverhampton Wanderers were left aggrieved by a late penalty appeal that was turned down in their 1-0 loss at Manchester United on Monday, but new manager Gary O’Neil believes there were many positives in a contest his side largely dominated.
Raphael Varane scored the only goal in their Premier League opener but Wolves were convinced they should have had a spot kick deep in added time, which O’Neil insisted highlighted a grey area in how the Video Assistant Referee is used.
United goalkeeper Andre Onana, making his competitive debut for the club, clattered into Wolves substitute Sasa Kalajdzic as he arrived late to try and punch clear a cross but got nowhere near the ball and left the striker on the ground.
Referee Simon Hooper saw nothing wrong and with a clear directive for VAR to only intervene in clear and obvious errors, there was no call to look again at the incident.
“The goalkeeper has come and just about taken our striker’s head off,” O’Neil told Sky Sports. “It’s a foul, it has to be. But I’m not overly surprised we did not get it to be honest.
“I understand the rules (of staying with on-field decisions where possible), but I don’t fully accept it.”
Not surprisingly United manager Eric ten Hag had a different view of the incident, though he admitted his team were given an almighty scare in their Premier League opener.
“It is difficult. Andre was really brave to come out and the ball was touched before he dived in so I don’t think he had an influence on the touch from the opponent. You can debate it, but I think no penalty,” he said.
“The opposition were dynamic. We had to match that. We had to fight for our points. They’re a tough team. We hope we’ll be better on the ball in the next game.”
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