Wolverhampton 0-1 Manchester United

Paul Scholes’ 100th Premier League goal was enough for Manchester

United to climb back to the top of the table.

Scholes settled a tense encounter with Wolves at Molineux 17

minutes from time, when he kept a cool head to beat Marcus

Hahnemann after Jody Craddock’s clearance had fallen nicely for the

veteran midfielder.

Sir Alex Ferguson will hope the goal helps persuade Scholes

to sign a one-year contract extension he is presently stalling

over.

However, Ferguson will also be fretting on the fitness of

Wayne Rooney after watching Sam Vokes waste a glorious chance to

equalise in stoppage time.

Alan Shearer is the loudest voice to claim Rooney has been

carrying United this season, but he certainly is not the only one

to think that way.

This was a chance for his team-mates to prove otherwise, as

Rooney did not even make the bench, his manager rating his talisman

“a big doubt” to face AC Milan on Wednesday.

Instead, their efforts merely confirmed Shearer’s view.

Isolated up front, Dimitar Berbatov failed to get involved as

Rooney would have done. After a three-match ban, Nani appeared to

have regressed to his maddening form of old and Antonio Valencia

was little better on the other side.

Darron Gibson was the only United player to threaten the

Wolves goal and the Irishman’s efforts were more typical of a

tourist at a seaside shooting gallery, peppering his shots

everywhere without getting close to winning a prize.

Gibson’s best effort was the shot he prodded wide after a

poor Nani free-kick had bounced into his path off Berbatov.

It was Wolves, though, who carried the greater threat.

Having angered the Premier League with his team selection at

Old Trafford in the reverse fixture last December, there was never

a chance of Mick McCarthy leaving players out this time.

And why would he?

United might have been aiming for top spot but they have

hardly been convincing this term and on their previous visits to

newly-promoted clubs were beaten at Burnley and drew at Birmingham.

Former Red Devil David Jones was set up by Matt Jarvis

following a forceful run from the excellent Kevin Doyle and might

have tested Edwin van der Sar had it not been for Michael Carrick’s

saving tackle.

Stephen Ward had the golden opportunity though.

Jarvis was again the provider, after darting down the right

on the overlap. His deep cross found Ward completely unmarked and

he only had to beat Van der Sar to score but he nodded tamely

straight at the veteran Dutchman.

The introduction of Gary Neville at the break might not have

been an obvious attacking move but the experienced full-back helped

his side get a measure of control for the first time.

Patrice Evra and Michael Carrick both had chances and Jody

Craddock also needed to act fast to rob Berbatov after Wolves had

got their offside trap all wrong as they attempted to defend a

Carrick cross.

Ferguson was then deeply unhappy at Nani being flattened by

Jody Craddock as he raced forward trying to support Valencia, who

had galloped down the wing.

It was not entirely a one-sided contest. Jarvis flashed a

shot wide after cutting in from the left flank and Nemanja Vidic

was booked for chopping down Karl Henry.

But United were the ones on top, their efforts just

emphasising the guile they were missing in Rooney.

In Scholes though, they have a player who will be remembered

years from now, for both invention and goals.

Finding the net has proved a problem in recent seasons for

the midfielder.

This year though, there have been signs of that old instinct

returning.

And when Craddock drilled Nani’s low cross straight to the

former England man he had the common sense not to rush, instead

nipping past the defender’s desperate lunge before drilling his

shot into the far corner.

It brought up his century of Premier League goals and his

148th overall for United.

Far more importantly, it left them staring down at their

rivals from that familiar position on the Premier League summit.

Mame Biram Diouf could not add to the lead when he failed to

find the target with a free header.

But United have flexed their muscles, even if Rooney will be

needed to land the winning punches.