Eurosport - Sat, 06 Mar 19:29:00 2010
Manchester United went top of the table with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Wolves at Molineux thanks to Paul Scholes's 100th Premier League strike.
Scholes's finish from nine yards was the difference between the sides after home substitute Sam Vokes missed a sitter in injury time.
The result, which sees United move two points ahead of Chelsea and Arsenal, was unfair on a Wanderers side which matched United in the first period and fought tooth and nail in the second, with Stephen Ward also guilty of missing a glorious chance.
Earlier this season, their manager Mick McCarthy was fined by the Premier League for making 10 changes at Old Trafford. For the home fixture he went with an unchanged line-up for the fourth game in succession, and it almost paid off.
The enterprise and running of Matt Jarvis on the left was a threat while, in the opening 45 minutes especially, Kevin Doyle led a number of counter-attacks. David Jones should have done better following one such move on 32 minutes after Doyle had fed Jarvis and the winger cut back.
United are always a threat of course and the in-form Antonio Valencia linked up well with Berbatov, who was leading the line in the absence of the injured Wayne Rooney, to send in many crosses which Jody Craddock and Christophe Berra repelled.
Ward then had his opportunity when Jarvis found him unmarked eight yards out in the centre of the goal. His header contained little power and Edwin van der Sar nevertheless did well to save.
Nil-nil was a fair scoreline at the break, doubtless causing brimstone United boss Alex Ferguson to give his men a talking-to ahead of the second period. They came out with purpose, but were frustrated by a resilient Wolves backline.
Patrice Evra sprinted forward from left-back to be slipped in by Gibson, but failed to get a shot away despite having two chances to do so.
Jones could only hit the away wall from 20 yards with a free-kick for Wolves after Adlene Guedioura had charged forward, only to be upended deliberately by Nemanja Vidic. The booking was one of several in quick succession, before both sets of players calmed their challenges again.
Wolves were undone by a rare sloppy clearance by hardman Craddock on 72 minutes. Nani crossed low from the right and his intended big boot only made it a few yards to Scholes, who earned some space and fired into the far corner past†Marcus Hahnemann.
A lot of huffing and puffing ensued from Wolves as United relaxed and looked to see the game out. They could have scored a second, but did not - and almost paid the penalty in injury time.
Home right-back Ronald Zubar battled to get the ball into the danger zone and when it fell to sub Vokes six yards out, he had time - and a strolling Scholes on the far side playing him on.
The flag stayed down but Vokes, who had replaced Jarvis on 88 minutes, panicked and skied his shot a couple of yards over the bar.
Chelsea, who face Stoke in the FA Cup quarter-finals on Sunday, have a game in hand on both United and Arsenal.