Manchester United failed to have a shot on target in a domestic game for the first time since January 2015 as they played out a goalless FA Cup draw at Molineux.
With United having a two-legged EFL Cup semi-final against Manchester City this month, the Old Trafford replay will take up their only spare January midweek without a game.
For Wolves, it adds to a marathon season that has already reached 36 games.
In a largely disappointing rematch of last year’s quarter-final, Marcus Rashford and Raul Jimenez both struck the woodwork in the second half.
Rashford came close a minute after his introduction as a second-half substitute, when his shot looped off Wolves skipper Conor Coady.
Jimenez’s was all his own work as he raced down the byeline and then, completely lacking in support, surprised United keeper Sergio Romero by shooting from a virtually impossible angle, sending the ball skidding off the woodwork.
Wolves’ long season stretching resources
Wolves, whose season started in July, gave a debut to 21-year-old striker Benny Ashley-Seal. He became the 26th player to start for Wolves during this campaign.
In truth, the young Londoner did not sparkle and appeared to complain of feeling ill before he was replaced by Jimenez at the break.
Wolves did create the best chance of the opening period, when a Pedro Neto corner was flicked on to Matt Doherty at the far post, only for Romero to make a fine reaction save.
Romero repelled Neto with his feet when the Portuguese teenager collected Adama Traore’s pass and created a space for a shot on the edge of the area after half-time, by which point the visitors were still to have a shot on target.
They did have a penalty claim for a foul on Brandon Williams by Leander Dendocker, although the video assistant referee confirmed on-field official Paul Tierney’s decision not to award it
Juan Mata drifted a free-kick just wide and Rashford hit the bar when the ball looped up after Coady slid in to block 19 minutes from time, but Wolves keeper John Ruddy had still not made a save of note even then.
United labour badly in attack
No-one could accuse the visitors of having an easy time of it in the FA Cup recently.
Their past four games have all been away. Their opponents? Arsenal, Chelsea, Wolves and Wolves again. Molineux proved to be the end of their journey last season and for watching former manager Sir Alex Ferguson it must have felt a long time ago that United came to this venue and won 3-0 in a fourth-round tie in 2006.
Ferguson’s team that day included Wayne Rooney and Ruud van Nistelrooy, two of the greatest forwards in the club’s history.
Current boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer simply does not have the same class in his squad and on a day when Rashford started on the bench and Anthony Martial was missing through illness, United laboured badly in attack.
Typical of a first half in which the visitors failed to have a single shot on target was the moment when Harry Maguire won the ball with a thunderous tackle on Traore, only for Andreas Pereira to pick up possession on the halfway line then, rather than drive into space, plod forward a few strides, turn square with a slow pass and lose any momentum.
Fixture congestion compounded
The replay will be at Old Trafford between the next two rounds of Premier League fixtures and comes after both clubs – as with every other English professional club – had four matches to play over the festive period.
For United, who like Wolves have reached the last 32 of the Europa League, it means that by the time these side play again in the league on 1 February, they will have played a minimum 18 games in 63 days – and even more if they do eventually reach the fourth round.
Man of the match – Raul Jimenez (Wolves)
Wolves stretch unbeaten run against United – the stats
- Manchester United failed to have a single shot on target in this match, the second time they’ve done so in all competitions this season (also vs AZ in the Europa League).
- Wolves are unbeaten in their past five matches against Manchester United in all competitions (W2 D3), their longest such streak against the Red Devils since a run of six between 1959-1962.
- United failed to score for the first time in 14 meetings with Wolves in all competitions, since losing 1-0 in a Premier League match in January 2004.
- Manchester United have been taken to an FA Cup third-round replay for the first time since 2012-13, when they eliminated West Ham at Old Trafford.
- Wolves’ Roman Saiss picked up his 11th card in all competitions this season (10 yellow, 1 red), more than any other Premier League player.
‘Moments of really good football’ – what the managers said
Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo, speaking to Match of the Day: “At times today we were at our best, especially in the second half. The first half was not so good. We were much better in the second half, created chances and had good combinations. There were moments of really good football.”
On his team’s hectic schedule: “We must compete. We are always happy to face Manchester United. Whether you face them home or away, you always have to challenge yourself. This is what you want to become better – challenging yourself against the best teams.
“It’s about having a team that can compete against any opponent.”
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, speaking to Match of the Day: “I’m happier to be in the replay than going out – it’s a tough place to come.
“They had chances – Sergio Romero made some great saves and we got off the hook with the header. Sergio has never let us down, he’s kept so many clean sheets. He is a fantastic human being and a top professional.
“He’s putting pressure on David de Gea and that’s what we want. We want the best players in the world here.
“It’s a competition I love. It’s a fair result that we are both still in the cup.”
Wolves are next in action in the Premier League at home to Newcastle on Saturday, 11 January (15:00 GMT kick-off). Manchester United entertain Manchester City in the EFL Cup semi-final first leg on Tuesday, 7 January (20:00 GMT) before playing Norwich in the Premier League at Old Trafford next Saturday (15:00 GMT).