Paul Scholes celebrates the strike that takes United back to the top of the table
By Sam Lyon
Paul Scholes grabbed the winner to earn Manchester United a laboured win over strugglers Wolves and send his side back to the top of the Premier League.
The 35-year-old ran onto Nani's pass in the box, turned past Christophe Berra, and slid home the winner on 73 minutes.
Scholes's 100th Premier League goal spared the blushes of a United side clearly missing the cutting edge of the injured Wayne Rooney.
Wolves battled well but wasted several chances to put the pressure on United.
Sam Vokes wasted their best chance late on, firing over from close range, and Mick McCarthy must wonder where his side would be in the table if they could match their valiant approach play with a touch of composure in front of goal.
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It meant another brave display from the hosts went unrewarded and they remain outside of the drop zone only on goal difference, while United will be hugely relieved to escape from Molineux with all three points.
They now leapfrog Chelsea at the top of the table and sit at the Premier League summit with a two-point cushion, albeit having played a game more the Blues.
This, though, was the most unconvincing of victories. But if the old adage about title-winning sides picking up victories when not at their best is true, it may well underline their title credentials.
Wolves were fined £25,000 the last time these two sides met because of McCarthy's controversial decision to field a weakened side.
But there will be no repeat this time around following a performance full of valour, intent and no little talent from a line-up that has been unchanged in four matches.
Kevin Doyle was the star turn as he performed well against Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand - the first time United's first-choice centre-back pairing had played together since October last year.
The Irishman had the first chance of note, dragging wide from inside the area, and was then heavily involved in a fine counter-attacking move on the half hour that ended with David Jones's shot being charged down bravely by Michael Carrick.
Neither of those were as gilt-edged as the chance that fell to Stephen Ward, though, the midfielder rising unmarked six yards out only to head Matt Jarvis's cross straight at United keeper Edwin van der Sar.
United, denied any room across the park by Wolves' hassle and harry, were desperately missing Rooney, unavailable after aggravating a knee injury on England duty in midweek.
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Dimitar Berbatov, up front on his own, was at times sublime but at others ineffective, while Nani, Scholes and Darron Gibson were unthreatening.
The best the visitors managed before the break was when Gibson got an out-stretched foot onto Nani's deflected free-kick, but his effort dribbled wide.
Ferguson's side did at least up the tempo in the second half, and Patrice Evra almost forced the opener when he burst onto Gibson's pass, only to see his original effort blocked and the follow-up cleared by Kevin Foley.
Still, though, a lack of spark in the United ranks only added to Wolves' confidence levels and McCarthy's side continued to look the more likely to score.
Our luck will change - McCarthy
That was until Scholes' intervention, with the veteran midfielder's neat finish rounding off 100 Premier League goals 16 years after his first.
After that, in truth, United could have had plenty more. Ji-Sung Park forced a good block running on to an excellent Berbatov pass, while Mame Diouf wasted two fine openings, heading a Gary Neville cross over at the back post and then dragging a shot wide on the counter-attack.
However, there was still time for a twist in the tale and Vokes almost provided it in injury time.
The substitute looked odds-on to score and snatch what would have been a vital point for the hosts when Ronald Zubar's prodded pass fell to him unmarked eight yards out with the goal gaping, but he somehow contrived to sweep the ball over the bar and leave McCarthy with his head in his hands.
It means Wolves, with only four home games to come from their remaining 10 matches, have it all to do to retain their Premier League status this season.
But United continue their charge for a fourth straight title, even if, on this evidence, they must be eagerly awaiting Rooney's return from injury.
Wolves manager Mick McCarthy "We played well but I'm sick of saying that. If we maintain those standards, I firmly believe our luck will change.
"Sam (Vokes) would expect to score that chance at the end, but it's the story of our season. There was a mistake at one end and a miss at the other.
"But we'll never give up, as long as there is breath in our bodies."
Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson: "We deserved the win, no question. They had an outstanding chance at the end but the lad didn't take it.
"Our form is good and we're managing without some players, which is important at this time of year.
"And we have players coming back - that was the first time that back four has played together for a year and a half."
90:00+1:54 Close range header by Sam Vokes misses to the right of the goal.
90:00+0:56 Sam Vokes takes a shot from close in clearing the crossbar.
89:56 Andrew Keogh fouled by Ji-Sung Park, the ref awards a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Jody Craddock.
87:56 Substitution Sam Vokes comes on in place of Matthew Jarvis.
85:32 Effort from outside the area by Kevin Doyle goes wide right of the goal.
83:11 Substitution Andrew Keogh is brought on as a substitute for Stephen Ward.
83:11 Substitution Sylvan Ebanks-Blake on for Adlene Guedioura.
82:51 Effort on goal by Ji-Sung Park from inside the penalty area goes harmlessly over the bar.
80:11 Effort on goal by Mame Diouf from inside the penalty box misses to the right of the target.
79:18 Foul by Antonio Valencia on Stephen Ward, free kick awarded. Stephen Ward takes the free kick.
78:49 Free kick awarded for a foul by Dimitar Berbatov on Karl Henry. Karl Henry takes the direct free kick.
76:45 Antonio Valencia decides to take the corner short. Gary Neville sends in a cross, Mame Diouf produces a header from inside
the six-yard box that clears the bar.
76:03 Corner taken by Antonio Valencia from the right by-line to the near post, Kevin Doyle manages to make a clearance.
72:46 Substitution Ji-Sung Park joins the action as a substitute, replacing Luis Nani.
72:01 GOAL - Paul Scholes:Wolverhampton 0 - 1 Man Utd Paul Scholes grabs a goal from close in to the bottom left corner of the goal. Wolverhampton 0-1 Man Utd.
69:34 Matthew Jarvis has shot on goal from just outside the box which goes wide of the right-hand upright.
68:41 The assistant referee signals for offside against Dimitar Berbatov. Indirect free kick taken by Marcus Hahnemann.
67:19 Kevin Foley challenges Luis Nani unfairly and gives away a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Gary Neville.
66:44 Matthew Jarvis takes the inswinging corner, Mame Diouf makes a clearance.
63:44 Kevin Doyle takes a shot. Blocked by Nemanja Vidic.
61:30 Substitution Darron Gibson goes off and Mame Diouf comes on.
60:54 Gary Neville restarts play with the free kick.
60:54 Booking David Jones receives a caution for unsporting behaviour.
60:49 David Jones gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Michael Carrick.
60:27 Booking Jody Craddock is shown a yellow card.
59:01 Pass corner from right by-line crossed in by Darron Gibson, Ronald Zubar manages to make a clearance.
57:40 David Jones produces a shot on goal direct from the free kick.
57:40 Booking Nemanja Vidic goes into the book.
57:31 Foul by Nemanja Vidic on Karl Henry, free kick awarded.
56:11 Headed effort from deep inside the area by Luis Nani misses to the left of the goal.
52:20 Outswinging corner taken from the right by-line by Luis Nani, Ronald Zubar manages to make a clearance. Michael Carrick has
an effort at goal from just inside the box that misses to the left of the goal.
52:06 Patrice Evra takes a shot. Marcus Hahnemann makes a save.
51:11 Karl Henry has an effort at goal from just outside the area which goes wide of the left-hand post.
50:19 Paul Scholes challenges Kevin Doyle unfairly and gives away a free kick. Stephen Ward restarts play with the free kick.
48:59 Gary Neville crosses the ball, Ronald Zubar makes a clearance.
46:42 Dimitar Berbatov takes a shot. Christophe Berra gets a block in.
45:01 The referee gets the second half underway.
45:01 Substitution Wes Brown goes off and Gary Neville comes on.
45:00+1:06 The referee calls an end to the first half.
43:52 Adlene Guedioura takes a shot. Blocked by Patrice Evra.
42:50 Free kick awarded for a foul by Dimitar Berbatov on Stephen Ward. Free kick taken by Marcus Hahnemann.
42:05 Wes Brown fouled by Matthew Jarvis, the ref awards a free kick. Rio Ferdinand restarts play with the free kick.
39:16 Jody Craddock challenges Dimitar Berbatov unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick taken by Rio Ferdinand.
36:22 The ball is swung over by Luis Nani, Christophe Berra manages to make a clearance.
35:07 The ball is swung over by Matthew Jarvis, Stephen Ward takes a shot. Save made by Edwin Van der Sar.
32:45 Foul by David Jones on Paul Scholes, free kick awarded. Direct free kick taken by Paul Scholes.
31:38 David Jones takes a shot. Edwin Van der Sar makes a save.
29:15 Michael Carrick takes a shot. Save by Marcus Hahnemann.
28:32 Wes Brown fouled by Kevin Doyle, the ref awards a free kick. Edwin Van der Sar takes the direct free kick.
26:10 Wes Brown crosses the ball.
25:02 Shot from just outside the box by Darron Gibson misses to the left of the goal.
20:02 The referee gives a free kick against Kevin Doyle for handball. Free kick taken by Edwin Van der Sar.
19:24 Dimitar Berbatov sends in a cross, Darron Gibson has a volleyed shot. Save made by Marcus Hahnemann.
18:02 Unfair challenge on Ronald Zubar by Luis Nani results in a free kick. Free kick crossed by David Jones, clearance by Patrice
16:05 The ball is crossed by David Jones.
15:48 Shot from 20 yards from Adlene Guedioura. Blocked by Dimitar Berbatov.
15:00 Free kick awarded for a foul by Nemanja Vidic on Kevin Doyle. David Jones delivers the ball from the free kick left-footed
from right channel, Nemanja Vidic makes a clearance. Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Matthew Jarvis from the left
by-line to the near post, Michael Carrick makes a clearance.
13:31 Free kick awarded for a foul by Karl Henry on Michael Carrick. Luis Nani has an effort direct from the free kick, blocked
by Jody Craddock. Shot by Darron Gibson from deep inside the penalty area misses wide to the left of the target.
10:52 Shot from just outside the area by Luis Nani misses to the right of the target.
9:18 Kevin Doyle gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Nemanja Vidic. Direct free kick taken by Edwin Van der Sar.
7:22 Antonio Valencia has an effort at goal from just outside the box which goes wide of the right-hand upright.
5:57 Kevin Foley challenges Patrice Evra unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick taken by Edwin Van der Sar.
5:20 Effort from inside the area by Kevin Doyle misses to the right of the goal.
0:00 The match has kicked off.
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