Manchester United 2-0 Wolves: Martial and Garnacho secure vital win in Champions League battle with Liverpool

Vital goal: Anthony Martial swept home Antony’s pass as Manchester United beat Wolves 1-0  (Getty Images)
Vital goal: Anthony Martial swept home Antony’s pass as Manchester United beat Wolves 1-0 (Getty Images)

Manchester United secured a crucial win in the race for Champions League qualification as Anthony Martial and Alejandro Garnacho struck to see off stubborn Wolves at Old Trafford.

Martial emphatically swept home his eighth goal of the season in the first half following an unselfish Antony cutback - the Brazilian having missed a sitter of his own just moments before - and fit-again substitute Garnacho later netted deep into stoppage time at the end of a nervy affair to ensure that United gained vital breathing space from Liverpool in the fierce battle for a top-four finish this season.

Saturday’s victory saw Erik ten Hag’s fourth-placed side, who finally got Raphael Varane back after a month on the sidelines but were missing attacking talisman Marcus Rashford due to injury, draw level on points with Newcastle in third after the Magpies were held to an entertaining 2-2 tie by relegation-threatened Leeds at Elland Road earlier in the afternoon.

Crucially, the win also took United four points clear of fierce rivals Liverpool in fourth, with Jurgen Klopp’s in-form Reds gunning for an incredible seventh successive triumph when they travel to meet struggling Leicester at the King Power Stadium on Monday night.

The Red Devils also avoided losing three straight top-flight matches for the first time since the Louis van Gaal era in December 2015, having seen their previously comfortable top-four bid derailed of late by successive painful 1-0 away losses at Brighton and West Ham.

On target: Alejandro Garnacho scored another late goal at Old Trafford after returning (PA)
On target: Alejandro Garnacho scored another late goal at Old Trafford after returning (PA)

That is despite an inspired performance from January signing Daniel Bentley, who made several excellent saves having been drafted in by Julen Lopetegui for a surprise Wolves and Premier League debut in place of regular first-choice goalkeeper Jose Sa.

The visitors, already safe from relegation after their slender win over Midlands rivals Aston Villa last weekend, played their part in an entertaining tussle, but despite no shortage of endeavour failed to muster a single shot on target just six days after under-fire United ‘keeper David de Gea was lambasted for a woeful error that cost his side any points at the London Stadium.

United have now won 25 home matches across all competitions during Ten Hag’s first season in charge. They can match their record of 27 in a single campaign set under Sir Alex Ferguson in 2002-03 if they beat both Chelsea and Fulham in their final two matches.

38 wins in total across all competitions is their most since 2010-11, while Ten Hag has already secured the most victories of any United boss in their debut season at the helm.