Wolverhampton Wanderers produced an outstanding second-half performance to overpower Manchester United and reach their first FA Cup semi-final for 21 years on an atmospheric night at Molineux.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s side, in their first quarter-final since 2003, fully deserved their victory as United produced their worst performance under the interim management of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
United goalkeeper Sergio Romero, in for David de Gea, had kept United level with brilliant saves from Diogo Jota and Raul Jimenez either side of the interval, before the Mexican striker swivelled in the area to finally give Wolves the reward their domination merited with 20 minutes remaining.
Wolves were rampant and it was no surprise when the dangerous Jota doubled their lead six minutes later, shrugging off United’s Luke Shaw on the break before shooting low past the exposed Romero.
United defender Victor Lindelof was shown a red card by referee Martin Atkinson for a touchline challenge on Jota, but it was downgraded it to yellow after a VAR review and, even though Marcus Rashford pulled one back in stoppage time, Wolves were worthy winners.
Wolves a growing threat
The celebrations on and off the pitch at Molineux when the final whistle sounded demonstrated what this win means to Wolves.
Their resurgence under Nuno was exemplified by how they were simply too powerful, too energetic and too inventive for United as Solskjaer suffered his second successive defeat.
Wolves have real quality running through the side with the class and experience of Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho in midfield augmented by the movement, pace and threat of Jota and Jimenez.
They have the backbone of captain Conor Coady and Willy Boly – and the bottom line was they were simply better than United in all areas of the pitch.
Now they head to Wembley and, make no mistake, they have the quality and confidence to threaten any team left in the FA Cup.
Manchester United get what they deserve
Solskjaer and United have deservedly been showered in praise for their dramatic rejuvenation since Jose Mourinho was sacked in December, the highlight of which was the stunning Champions League turnaround against Paris St-Germain in France earlier this month.
This, though, was a performance that rolled back the months to the Mourinho era and was arguably worse than some of the displays turned in under the Portuguese.
Paul Pogba was restored as captain as another Mourinho move was wiped away but he was poor – although he was not alone there.
United barely threatened Wolves keeper John Ruddy and, slowly but surely, their performance crumbled to almost shambolic levels in the second half as Wolves were all over them and ran them ragged.
Solskjaer will hope it is just a temporary slump but the fight is now right on for the top four and Champions League opponents Barcelona will not lose a wink of sleep after watching United here.
Man of the match – Raul Jimenez (Wolves)
BBC Sport readers rated Wolves striker Raul Jimenez man of the matchafter scoring his side’s opening goal.
‘A big step backwards’ – reaction
Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo, speaking to BBC Sport:“I’m very proud of the players. We had composure, shape, good running. Very well done to the boys and it was a fantastic atmosphere.
“It means a lot because we know how big Wolves were in the 1950s and 1960s and there are people in the stadium who have memories of that.
“To try to achieve the same is much, much harder now but we will try step by step. We will respect everybody in the semi-finals.”
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, speaking to BBC Sport:“We started too slowly and played into their hands. Our possession wasn’t bright enough and quick enough, so it’s disappointing.
“I didn’t think we had enough quality in the last third, enough combination play. We had decent dominance with the ball in the first half but that doesn’t help if you give the ball away and they can counter.
“This was a big step backwards, mainly because of the quality of the possession and the passing.”
Solskjaer’s first back-to-back defeats – stats
- Wolves have reached their 15th FA Cup semi-final and their first since 1997-98. They have been eliminated in each of their last four semi-final appearances.
- United have lost back-to-back games for the first time under Solskjaer, last doing so in December 2018 in Mourinho’s last two matches in charge.
- Wolves have won three consecutive FA Cup games for the first time since February 2003.
- Wolves have won six of their last seven home matches across all competitions (D1), as many as their previous 16 before this (W6 D5 L5).
- United have lost an FA Cup clash with Wolves for the first time since January 1973, and for the first time in their four such meetings at the quarter-final stage.
- Raul Jimenez has scored 15 goals in all competitions this season, at least eight more than any other Wolves player.
Manchester United host Watford in the Premier League on Saturday, 30 March at 15:00 GMT, while Wolves are away at Burnley at the same time.
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