Wolves 0 United 1: Mathieson's verdict
The fist-punching salute from Paul Scholes when he conjured up his Molineux winner couldn't have packed more relief had his goal been scored in the last minute on May 9 to secure the title. United's bench celebrated as if it was the Champions League winner in Madrid. The Reds' fans in the Molineux paddock hadn't jumped about more deliriously last Sunday at Wembley. But I bet there was a young man in a mansion in Prestbury who might have broken the tranquillity of the picturesque Cheshire village when Scholes grabbed his 100th Premier League goal to make the breakthrough. Considering the amount of goals Wayne Rooney has contributed to United's campaign, it would have been harsh to ostracise him if the champions had lost two crucial title points against Wolves. But Sir Alex Ferguson might not have been on too cheery talking terms with his striker this morning had the Reds not sneaked this one. Rooney had been rebuked by his boss for not making the sensible decision to leave England's win against Egypt last Wednesday early to protect his sore knee. It was a mild public telling-off. Whether it was such a serene reprimand privately is doubtful. His enthusiasm to please Fabio Capello cost him his place in United's 18. Some argue he'd have been kept under wraps anyway for this journey down the M6. I'm not convinced. United struggle At the very least, surely he'd have been used as insurance on the bench if he'd been fit. And the way this was going he'd have been off it and stripped pretty sharpish. Had United drawn at Molineux, or most unlikely lost, goodness knows what temperature the hairdryer directed at Rooney might have registered. Thankfully, only rarely do we get a peep of life without Rooney and it doesn't make contented viewing. Despite the credible efforts of Dimitar Berbatov as the lone frontman United lack spark and opposition defenders don't get quite the same sense of foreboding when Rooney is not going full tilt at them. Both Arsenal and Chelsea had easily taken the full points off Mick McCarthy's strugglers at Molineux this season so to toil against them wasn't good and it was an example of how desperately the Reds need the Rooney factor. In any title-winning campaign you steal some wins, you grab three points in ugly fashion at times and some victories are downright lucky. This could be categorised in all three. United never seriously looked like they could lose the match. Apart from the industry of Kevin Doyle, Wolves have so little punch up-front that any rustiness there may have been in the Rio Ferdinand-Nemanja Vidic partnership was never really tested. Wolves were easily repelled whenever they were in possession and so many of their moves ended up going backwards as they had little imagination in how to open up the Reds. They did, however, have the best chance of the first half when Stephen Ward headed a golden chance straight into Edwin Van der Sar's arms when the Dutchman could so easily have been picking the ball out of the net. Quality was at a premium but Scholes produced the moment of excellence that stood out. Nani's 71st minute cross cannoned off Jody Craddock and among the melee United's 35-year-old veteran kept a cool head to make himself space to thump in the winner. Back in Prestbury, Rooney's sense of relief at the Scholes hit would have been replicated in injury time when Sam Vokes put in his application for miss of the season. The Wolves sub had Van der Sar at his mercy when he met a cross in injury time only to balloon it over the bar. Inquest went on as to how he'd been allowed such room. Had he actually scored World War Three might have set off in United's defence and a delivery of a replacement plasma TV for the Rooneys would have been on its way to Prestbury this week. Do you think United are showing title-winning form? Have your say.
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