Wolverhampton Wanderers were left to rue a succession of missed chances and controversial officiating as Manchester United scraped past Gary O’Neil’s side 1-0 in their Premier League opener at Old Trafford.
Raphael Varane’s second-half header proved the difference, but Erik ten Hag’s men were second best for the majority of the contest, and Wolves could travel back to Molineux with their heads held high following a valiant display.
As expected, Andre Onana and Mason Mount were brought in for their competitive Red Devils debuts from the first whistle, while Alejandro Garnacho was also given the nod out wide as Christian Eriksen warmed the bench
However, Man United failed to impose themselves against a well-drilled Wolves crop, who defended admirably in the earliest exchanges and restricted the Red Devils to just a handful of touches in their penalty area.
After absorbing Man United pressure for 26 minutes, O’Neil’s men burst forward on the counter-attack through Matheus Cunha, who bulldozed Lisandro Martinez out of the way on the halfway line and created a three-on-two situation for his side.
The Brazilian picked out the run of Pablo Sarabia on the left-hand side, but the Spaniard’s low effort took a nick off of Varane before flashing just wide, and the resulting corner came to nothing.
Cunha and Sarabia linked up once more for another golden chance in the 32nd minute, and this time it was the Spaniard’s turn to slip through his teammate, but Cunha fired just wide of the far post from a tight angle as a sloppy Man United struggled to settle.
It was Wolves’ turn to survive a nervy moment in the 39th minute, though, as Man United screamed for a penalty when Marcus Rashford’s header appeared to strike Nelson Semedo’s arm, but neither Simon Hooper nor the VAR room saw the need to intervene.
With the booked Martinez being run ragged by Cunha, Ten Hag swapped the Argentine for Victor Lindelof at half time, and the Wolves attacker picked up where he left off early in the second half, but his finishing let him down as he clipped the outside of the post from a couple of yards out in the 49th minute.
Cunha’s miss nearly proved costly as compatriot Antony tried to lob the ball over Jose Sa and into the Wolves net in the 53rd minute, but Craig Dawson headed clear off the line.
Wolves rose into the ascendancy again – thanks in no small part to a spate of misplaced passes from their hosts, who just could not cope with the visitors’ surging runs through the middle of the pitch.
However, Wolves’ wasted chances would finally come back to bite them in the 76th minute, as Fernandes chipped a delicate ball into the box to find the run of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who crossed for Varane to head home into an open goal from a few yards out.
More opportunities came and went for Wolves, as substitute Fabio Silva was denied by a steadfast Onana on a couple of occasions, but Man United were well and truly clinging onto their slender lead approaching the final few moments.
O’Neil’s side were given seven minutes of injury time to finally convert one of their multitude of chances, and they were up in arms in the sixth, as Onana clattered into Sasa Kalajdzic inside the area.
Despite vociferous calls for a penalty, Hooper was not even sent over to look at the monitor, as Man United breathed a huge sigh of relief before seeing out an ugly opening win.
Ten Hag’s side now gear up to meet Tottenham Hotspur away from home on Saturday, while Wolves host Brighton & Hove Albion at Molineux in five days’ time.