But the game's one moment of true class told as United overcame the first hurdle of their defence of the trophy they won on penalties against Spurs last February.
Not that Sir Alex Ferguson ranks that as his greatest priority this season if his selection is anything to by, with the Scot selecting an entirely different XI to the one that started Sunday's derby win over Manchester City.
However, with eight full internationals on the pitch from the off, United had plenty of ammunition to hurt their visitors and Nani and Owen, in particular, took the game to the visitors early on.
Not that Wolves were overawed, and they were happy to throw numbers forward whenever possible, with Sylvan Ebanks-Blake going closer than anyone to breaking the deadlock when his shot from 20 yards dipped inches over the bar.
Fabio gets his marching orders after bringing Kightly down outside the box
It was an open contest, full of attacking verve, and one that looked to be heading Wolves' way when Fabio, having slipped, felled Kightly with his arm with the striker through on goal, earning the Brazilian an inevitable red card.
Jones forced a fine save from Kuszczak from the resulting free-kick, but ironically, it prompted United's best spell of the first half and Owen should have done better with a header six yards out from Gary Neville's cross.
A Neville error then let in Jones, only for the former Red Devil to clip well over with just Kuszczak to beat.
The pattern continued in the second half, with United pushing and probing but lacking quality in the final third, and Wolves occasionally threatening on the break.
That was until Welbeck's intervention, the young striker getting on the end of a superb clipped pass from Owen and slamming home to cap the move of the night.
Wolves responded by bringing on strike pair Doyle and Andy Keogh, and the former twice came close to a leveller.
First he brought a smart low save out of Kuszczak with a firm left-footed drive and he then hooked a snap-shot narrowly wide minutes later.
But despite largely dominating possession and territory as the match drew to a close, they could not force a breakthrough and United held on to make it six wins on the trot in all competitions.
Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson: "You can't argue with the red card, but Fabio is only 18 and this experience will help him grow.
"Even before we went down to 10 men Wolves were a threat on the counter-attack, but for the last hour we kept our discipline and that was very pleasing. That never-say-die attitude runs through this club and the goal was of magnificent quality.
"Who do I want next? (Son Darren's side) Peterborough at home. All the family should be happy with that."
Wolves boss Mick McCarthy: "My assessment was that we weren't good enough to win it - we've been sat down, patted on the head and sent on our way.
"Nice old Wolves, come up put on a show but don't upset the apple cart. It annoys me."
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