Marcus Rashford’s deflected strike deep into stoppage time moved Manchester United to within two points of Liverpool at the top of the Premier League with a 1-0 win over Wolves on Tuesday.
United laboured for long spells against a youthful Wolves side, but got a huge slice of fortune in the 93rd minute when Rashford’s shot hit Romain Saiss to leave Rui Patricio helpless.
Victory takes Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men up to second and continues an excellent run of 23 points from the last possible 27 to mount an unlikely title challenge after a slow start to the season.
Despite enjoying one more day’s rest amid the packed festive schedule than their opponents, Solskjaer made six changes from the side that drew 2-2 at Leicester on Boxing Day.
Edinson Cavani made just his second Premier League start, while Paul Pogba returned in midfield, but United were fortunate to get away with a pedestrian performance.
Wolves were in action just 48 hours previously when they held Tottenham 1-1 at Molineux.
Nuno Espirito Santo brought in youngsters Max Kilman, Ki-Jana Hoever, Rayan Ait-Nouri and Vitinha to give the visitors’ energy and his plan so nearly earned a valuable point even though they just ran out of gas in the closing stages.
The last clash between the sides at Old Trafford in February was Bruno Fernandes’s debut for United.
The Portuguese has had a transformative impact on the United’s fortunes, but he could not beat international teammate Patricio with by far the hosts’ best chance of the first-half as he snuck in at the back post to meet Mason Greenwood’s cross.
On Sunday, Saiss flicked home Pedro Neto’s corner late on to earn Wolves a deserved point against Spurs and the same two players nearly combined to open the scoring when Saiss turned Neto’s free-kick goalwards forcing David de Gea into a smart save.
Solskjaer lauded Cavani’s predatory instincts on the eve of the game, suggesting the Uruguayan will be handed an extension to his contract for next season.
The 33-year-old did find the net with his only chance 20 minutes from time, but was offside as the ball broke his way from a corner.
United posed more attacking threat in the final 15 minutes than they did for the first 75 as Pogba then stung the palms of Patricio from long-range.
Anthony Martial also blazed over from the edge of the box before the breakthrough arrived in stoppage time.
Rashford raced onto Fernandes’s hopeful long ball over the top and the England international’s shot hit Saiss and flew in at Patricio’s near post.