Alejandro Garnacho returns to put seal on Manchester United win over Wolves
Alejandro Garnacho returned from injury with a bang as the Manchester United teenager wrapped up a victory against Wolves that gets their Champions League qualification quest back on track.
Back-to-back defeats at Brighton and West Ham allowed rivals Liverpool to move within a point of the Red Devils in fourth, as Erik ten Hag’s side risked allowing a positive season to end badly.
United alleviated the pressure somewhat by returning to winning ways thanks to Anthony Martial’s close-range finish and substitute Garnacho’s stoppage-time goal in Saturday’s 2-0 victory against Wolves.
Antony’s intelligent pass set up the France international to score the opening goal – just his fifth in the Premier League this term – in front of former manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The 1999 treble hero was serenaded by fans as he attended his first match at Old Trafford since being sacked 18 months and received a warm welcome in the directors’ box.
United’s 25th home win of the season will not live long in the memory but would have been more comfortable had Dan Bentley not made some impressive saves on his top-flight debut.
But the Wolves goalkeeper would be beaten once more in stoppage time as substitute Garnacho scored as he made his first appearance since injury an ankle two months ago.
Injured Marcus Rashford was among three players to make way for the hosts on Saturday, when Ten Hag’s side had a glorious chance to take an early lead.
Max Kilman’s slip gifted Antony the ball but the winger could only continue to bend a left-footed strike wide.
The hosts dominated the early possession and tempo, playing with such comfort that could explain why returning defender Raphael Varane tried a wild, uncharacteristic effort from distance.
But for all of United’s control there was not much for Wolves goalkeeper Bentley to do on his Premier League debut.
The 29-year-old – in for Jose Sa – caught a Bruno Fernandes free-kick that had been slowly heading towards the top left-hand corner, then watched a hopeful Christian Eriksen attempt bounce wide.
Well-placed Antony should have done better than poorly heading over from Luke Shaw’s fine cross when United next attacked, but he soon atoned for that latest miss.
Fernandes played the winger behind Wolves’ backline and he smartly cut across to Martial after Bentley raced off his line, allowing the France forward to apply a simple finish.
That 32nd-minute opener would have been followed by another had Bentley not been alert to tip over his own bar from a corner.
The first half ended with Martial seeing a weak effort comfortably stopped after a roaring Antony run on the counter.
The Brazil international had an attempt blocked shortly after the break and Wolves returned in a better shape, albeit failing to test David De Gea.
Lively Antony saw a low drive deflect just wide of the near post and Fernandes’ effort from an acute angle was denied as the home side attempted to put the game beyond Wolves.
United would have scored a second in the 73rd minute had Bentley not got down exceptionally to get a strong hand on a Jadon Sancho effort that was bound for the bottom corner.
The Wolves shot-stopper’s impressive display continued as he turned away a Casemiro attempt.
Each missed opportunity increased the nerves and Adama Traore’s driven cross to the near post was blocked by substitute Harry Maguire as Raul Jimenez lurked.
Fernandes curled over a free-kick and Bentley denied Antony towards the end of a match that ended with a special moment in front of the Stretford End.
Fernandes slipped through Garnacho and the teenager smartly made space under pressure from Nelson Semedo to score off the inside of the post.